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Benchmark Reviews Editors Choice Awards 2009 E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Benchmark Reviews Editors Choice Awards 2009
Best in Class: Accessories
Best in Class: Cases
Best in Class: Cooling
Best in Class: Motherboards
Best in Class: Network Storage
Best in Class: Processors
Best in Class: Data Storage
Best in Class: Video Cards
2009 Editors Choice Awards

Best in Class: ATX Motherboards

2009 has been a busy year for motherboard manufacturers. Universal abit went out of business early on in the year, while industry leaders like ASUS and Gigabyte gave up market share to smaller companies such as MSI, ASRock, BioSTAR, DFI, and EVGA. This new surge in competition certainly helped fill the pages of our Featured Reviews: Motherboards section, giving the staff at Benchmark Reviews plenty to write about. Intel launched their X58-Express chipset 2 November 2008, and the P55-Express was introduced with the LGA1156 socket ten months later in September (2009). AMD kept themselves busy, having launched their 785G (RS880) in August.

Awarded: Gigabyte P55/P55A Series

When Benchmark Reviews published the article Gigabyte GA-P55-UD6 Motherboard: P55 vs X58 in September (2009), we were surprised by how far Gigabyte had come with their engineering process. Now granted it had been ten months or more since the Intel X58 chipset had shipped, but in those months Gigabyte made the leap from their 12+2+2 power phase design with VRD 11.1 support on X58-Express motherboards to their current 24-phase power VRM for the P55 series. The results were impressive, and paired with the slightly more efficient Socket LGA1156 processors the power consumption was as low as it has ever been.

While we would have preferred that Gigabyte introduce their 24-phase power VRM with the enthusiast-level X58 platform, it made a nice feature to add onto others that Gigabyte would later introduce for the P55 platform. Using the Marvell 88SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller offered forward compatibility for future-generation storage devices, while the NEC D720200F1 host controller (part number µPD720200) delivered SuperSpeed USB-3.0 connectivity for blazing fast 5Gbps transfer speeds. While Gigabyte and ASUS each offered their own Marvel SATA-III controller that worked relatively well for a first-generation product, the 9123 part used by ASUS included a known issue with PATA/IDE drives and was immediately discontinued. Gigabyte however used Marvell's 9128 part on their entire P55A series, which all offer SATA-6G and USB-3.0 functionality.

Offered at NewEgg for $134.99 our value pick would be the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD3, which is presently the least-expensive SATA-6G/USB-3.0 motherboard available. For the best blend of features, performance, and price, the Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P gets our nod. For all the bells, whistles, and heatpipes, the P55A-UD6 is top of class. It is the total package of features and improvements that has earned Gigabyte our 2009 Editor's Choice Award for their P55A motherboard series.


Honorable Mention: ASUS P55 Series

ASUS has a penchant for being the first to offer new technology on their motherboards, and although the P7P55D Premium was first to market and used the Intel P55/ICH10 chipset together with a troubled Marvell 88SE9123 SATA-6G chip, ASUS learned of Marvell's problem and cancelled future development with the 9123 component. Nevertheless, the ASUS P7P55D EVO did a great job of offering enthusiasts a solid Intel P55 motherboard utilizing the proven stability of JMicron's JMB363 and JMB322 (DriveXpert Technology) chips. Priced at $194.99 the ASUS P7P55D EVO is far from a budget board, but also not as costly as most other high-end P55 offerings. ASUS received our Golden Tachometer Award for the P7P55D EVO, and is honorably mentioned for our Editor's Choice Award.

Best in Class: mITX Motherboards

Awarded: ZOTAC ION Atom N330 Kit

When NVIDIA paired their GeForce 9400m GPU to the Intel N330 dual-core processor, they created the ION platform. Zotac capitalized early-on and produced the ultimate mITX motherboard kit with Wi-Fi-N capability and plenty of HTPC functionality. Benchmark Reviews tested the ZOTAC IONITX-A-U Kit in June 2009, and it promptly received our Golden Tachometer Award. Having used the ION platform for many months now, we've tested the Intel N330 as the center-piece to our Windows 7 HTPC. With a full 1080p native HDMI 1.3a A/V interface along with Wireless-N and Gigabit Ethernet functionality, the Zotac ION kit costs only $184.99 to create the ideal Windows Media Center.


In our next section, Benchmark Reviews offers our best recommendations for SOHO and Enterprise-class Network Attached Storage (NAS) server products... and we name one product not worth your hard-earned money.


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