In my Wish List thread, I oscillated between using an Evga SLi board and an MSI G45; one being a botique board for multi-GPU setups, and the second being the least expensive multi-GPU supporting board with an available x8/x8 PCIe graphics slot configuration. My motivation has always been to find an inexpensive, quality board with the desired graphics slot configuration and known overclocking potential of at least 4.5GHz with Intel's unlocked Sandy Bridge CPUs.
A quick aside on RAM- DDR3 has become inexpensive, with highly compatable kits running at high clocks and low voltages from Corsair and G.Skill. I don't really have a preference, except that I despise the aesthetics of most of G.Skills RAM- red, everywhere? No thanks. The same black Corsair Vengeance 2x4GB DDR3 1600MHz C9 1.5v kit that is recommended by Geoff in the System Guide has stayed in my wish list and my cart, and is now on order.
What boards I've considered:
I've seen many reviews and user's praises of Asus' P67 Pro thrown around, with it's sharp and snappy implementation of UEFI and feature rich design. It's the least expensive board from Asus with the proper graphics slot configuration and appears to do everything else right, and has been reviewed to be the best overclocker at and below its price range. This was my benchmark board- if I couldn't find another board that met my requirements, Asus' P67 Pro would go in the basket.
MSI's G45 seemed like a great board, and indeed it is, fitting my basic requirements to a T with only a few shortcomings. The UEFI interface while functional is reported to be clunky and slow, something I could deal with but wouldn't mine paying a little more to avoid. Also, astonishingly, MSI uses vertical SATA ports instead of horizontal edge mounted ports, with the position of the four SATA2 ports directly underneath the space a second GPU would occupy. While right-angle connectors would would cumbersomely allow the use of two of those four connectors, the other two would likely be blocked off. Really, MSI?
Between the above two boards, I found ASRock's P67 Extreme4. Very well equipped like Asus' P67 Pro, but $30 cheaper, ASRock sought to add a PCIe hub for the southbridge ports, allowing all integrated PCIe components, the two PCIe x1 slots, and the PCIe x4 slot to connect simultaneously to the southbridge at full speed, sharing the upstream bandwidth. Definitely a nice feature if per say a RAID card would be added in that x4 slot while a wireless NIC and discrete soundcard filled one PCIe x1 slot and available PCI slot, with two GPUs installed. Even better, and this was the deal-breaker for me, is ASRock's inclusion of a 3.5" USB3 adaptor bay, which puts the two ports on the board in a bay for cases that do not include proper USB3 support.
ASRock's P67 Extreme4
I'll update my Build Log with how this board integrates into my Sandy Bridge system, and I'll post below with details and issues specific to this board. I also have one question about this boards onboard audio that I cannot find answered in any review or from someone else's firsthand experience: can the Realtek codec output full 5.1 digitially across a DD 5.1 or DTS stream, as generated by the codec for games/music? Can it expand stereo streams to take advantage of a 5.1 setup?
I've written this up to detail my research and decision making process for my own Sandy Bridge system. Any comments, concerns, questions or other responses are welcome, thanks!