Quite clearly, in the $100 to $200 range, the Intel Core i5 750 emerged as the winner at the upper end of the spectrum. Those looking to spend a bit less, at around $150 the best two options currently available are the Phenom II X4 925 and the Core i3 540. However, as we tightened up our budget it was all AMD.
When looking at sub-$100 parts the result didn't come as much of a shock given our previous findings. For about $100, the Athlon II X4 630 and Phenom II X2 555 belong at the top of the food chain, delivering unrivaled performance in their class. The potential to unlock two additional cores on the latter was just the icing on the cake, giving us Phenom II X4 955 performance with the click of a button.
Indeed, the AMD AM3 platform appears to be the way to go for budget-minded users, and best of all there's a huge range of affordable motherboards to choose from.
Because of the way AMD has been forced into playing their cards, it is easy to find and purchase an AM3 motherboard capable of supporting even the latest Phenom II X6 processor for less than $100. Many of these motherboards also boast newly released technologies such as SATA 6Gb/s and USB 3.0, making them even more attractive.
Today we are putting together a few of these affordable AM3 motherboards to see just how much bang for your buck they offer. And we mean it, the three motherboards we hand-picked for testing come from reputable manufacturers and are being sold for less than $100. As part of our evaluation, we will attempt to unlock the Phenom II X2 555 processor ($100) on each board, essentially obtaining the performance of a $160 part without shelling out the extra cash for it.
The contenders include the Asrock 880GMH/USB3 ($85), Gigabyte 870A-UD3 ($95) and MSI 870A-G54 ($90). All three motherboards feature a current generation AMD 8-series chipset, but that doesn't mean they are all alike as we are about to find out.