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KitGuru Annual Awards 2012

The underlying technology that makes all other things possible, the base upon which all dreams are built – so ‘no pressure’ then.
We need to say, at this stage, that bad boards don’t really exist any more.

Sure, some can be over priced and we’ve managed to lose days in the lab when a vendor decides to completely overhaul their BIOS when we’re almost done testing – but the latest chipsets from Intel and AMD are both feature-full and stable.

That said, some are a dream to work with, while others are still 1 or 2 generations back in terms of software (UEFI) and support.

Given that you can be building a system for pure performance or with a specific budget in mind – and you might be choosing Intel or AMD – we have covered all four of those options: Value & Performance for Intel & AMD.

Overclocking can get even expert overclockers hot under the collar. When you've cranked it up, you need it to be absolutely stable. KitGuru picks the winners from 2012 - in every category that counts.

AMD Value
While recent success has been focused around graphic cards, sporting the Twin Frozr cooling solution, MSI still knows how to compete in the fierce mainboard market. Arguably one of the better specifications being offered in this sector of the market is the MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 which seems to offer an extensive feature set around the £48 mark. It’s hard to understand why AMD doesn’t use these for all its APR-sampling instead of sending mega boards costing more than the APU itself. No overall winner here, but we’re expecting big things from FM2 boards in 2013.

AMD Performance
There might be cheaper options if you want a simple Bulldozer set-up, but for anyone who’s interested in pushing their O/C skills to the max, then the Asus Sabertooth 990FX R2 is a great choice around the £130 mark. Even though you have to turn off most of the cores in the FX-8150 – some of the world’s top overclockers have managed more than 8.5GHz with AMD. That’s WAY past a 100% overclock, which is traditionally considered the ‘point at which things start to get very serious.

Intel Value
Sometimes we feel like the technology market is too close to the financial market – the price of products goes up and down so much. At the time we put the Gigabyte Z77-D3H through the Kitguru Labs torture testing, it was close to £80. After picking up out top award, pricing drifted up, but – fortunately – it’s now down closer to £75. However you look at it, the Z77-D3H is a killer product. If you have £30 more in your budget, then MSI has an excellent Z77 mainboard for your consideration. When we put the MSI Z77A-G45 board through its paces, we concluded that it could overclock with the best of them – even past £200. It clocked a 3770k to 4.8GHz only the smallest of BIOS adjustments and it also supports memory through to 2,666MHz – giving you plenty of bandwidth for demanding applications. So we declare these two board as our Intel Value selections for 2012.

Intel Performance
At the top end of the performance spectrum, the quality available is incredible. Having considered all the options, we have a tie between the ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Champion and the Asus Rampage IV Extreme, so they share the Intel Performance award.

While you can easily add more memory, drives or graphic cards later - we strongly emphasis the need to get the CPU and mainboard right. We have a pair of superb overclocking boards for Intel, alongside a pair of budget options but only one AMD board. We're hoping to see an end to AMD sampling £90 processors with £110 boards in 2013 - there should be more FM2 Mini ITX.

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  • callum orr

    Great read. although it wouyld have been good to have a couple more categorys on the mainboard section, as there wasnt really a z77 winner at £200 price point? which is exactly what im looking into at the moment.
    just thought i would also let you know of typo on the best of the rest page as you have written ‘Winning in 2103’.
    great article though.

  • Joanne

    That was really useful to help me shortlist parts for a new system build. Thank you!

  • Kirk

    Some great products in this list, I have decided to get the corsair H80i and the seasonic 520W power supply next pay day.

  • Nico

    Interesting to see some of these, I missed quite a few of the reviews this year, with so many updates on Kitguru it can be hard to keep track.

    Good work, very interesting reading.

  • Neil

    I am surprised to see Corsair getting so many awards, their H coolers aren’t all that good. Noctua NH D14 is better than them all.

  • Xtreme

    I would argue against OCZ, their fail rate is bad, I wouldn’t award them anything.

  • HWExpert

    @Xtreme – thats not right. only sandforce 2281 issues, and they plagued everyone from Corsair to Patriot who used the same controller. OCZ just sold more so they are highlighted more.

    Vector is a different controller. well earned IMO.

  • Kim Kan

    Was looking at the 302 and this has made my mind up. Wish they also did cheaper graphics cards cos I don’t want to spend more than £100.