Asus And DFI: Core i7 Micro-ATX Motherboards Compared

With support for full-sized components and up to four expansion cards, the Micro ATX format has always been more than adequate for the majority of high-end builds. Yet while enthusiasts have typically cited inadequate quality or design as the primary reason for not considering this option, manufacturers have cited lack of demand as a reason for not putting their best efforts into a board this small. A few attempts by manufacturers to win loyalty among space-conscious enthusiasts have mostly been rejected by a market that maintained its traditional view of the former problems.

The popularity of Micro ATX portable gaming enclosures is finally starting to break the cycle of negative assumptions as customers are forced to make a decision about what hardware to put inside. Current top products are undoubtedly as feature-laden as many of their full-sized counterparts, incorporating high-end devices and support for even the largest dual-slot graphics cards in CrossFire and SLI. Always a target of upper-range Micro ATX motherboard sales, professional media and home theater enthusiasts may instead choose to load up to three media-centric devices in addition to a single-slot graphics card. With this much flexibility, confessing that they don’t actually need more expansion room could be the hardest problem for many builders.

Yet few of us will even consider smaller devices until we can see that they function as well in every respect as the larger parts they replace, so today we’ll compare these against the fastest of our full-ATX samples. Before we go into the details of that test, let’s take a closer look at the features we so eagerly endorsed.

Micro-ATX Core i7 Motherboard Features

 

Asus Rampage II Gene

DFI LANParty Jr
X58-T3H6

Northbridge

Intel X58 Express

Intel X58 Express

Southbridge

Intel ICH10R

Intel ICH10R

Voltage Regulator

Eight Phases

Six Phases

BIOS

0705 (04-09-2009)

217 (02-17-2009)

133.3 MHz Bclk

133.6 MHz (+0.20%)

133.0 (-0.25%)

Clock Generator

ICS 9LPRS918JKLF

ICS 9LPRS918JKLF

Internal Interfaces

PCIe 2.0 x16

2 (x16/x16)

2 (x16/x16)

PCIe x1/x4

0/1

0/1

Legacy PCI

1

1

USB 2.0

4 (8-ports)

3 (6-ports)

IEEE 1394

1

0

Serial Port

0

1

Parallel Port

0

0

Floppy

0

1

 Ultra ATA-133

1 (2-drives)

1 (2-drives)

SATA 3 Gb/s

7

6

4-Pin Fan

5

1

3-Pin Fan

0

5

FP-Audio

Yes

Yes

CD-Audio

Yes

Yes

S/PDIF I/O

Output Only

None

Power Button

Yes

Yes

Reset Button

Yes

Yes

CLR_CMOS Button

Jumper Only

Yes (by PWR+RST)

Diagnostics Panel

External Device Header

2-Character

I/O Panel Connectors

PS/2

1

2

USB 2.0

4

6

IEEE 1394

1

0

Network

1

1

eSATA

1

0

CLR_CMOS Button

Yes

By Jumper

Digital Audio Out

1

2

Digital Audio In

0

0

Analog Audio

6

6

Mass Storage Controllers

Chipset SATA

6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

6x SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Chipset RAID Modes

0, 1, 5, 10

0, 1, 5, 10

Add-In SATA

JMB363 PCIe, 1x SATA 3.0 Gb/s, 1x eSATA 3.0 Gb/s

None

Add-In Ultra ATA

JMB363 PCIe

JMB368 PCIe

IEEE 1394

VT6315N PCIe, 2 x 400 Mb/s

None

Gigabit Ethernet

Primary LAN

RTL8111C PCIe

88E8053 PCIe

Secondary LAN

None

None

Audio

HD Audio Codec

AD2000B

ALC889

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  • snow cakes
    DFI tends to screw me over the past two times my Lanparty motherboards kept locking up at random times during computer ussage. If I had to buy a new motherboard I would look at the Asus over the DFI.