Motherboard selection is mercifully less intimidating than picking a laptop for gaming. With boards, we can establish a set of criteria and narrow down the selection immediately to something more manageable; lower prices than other components also make selection somewhat easier to mentally justify. Our criteria for motherboard selection typically includes consideration of socket type, form factor, ability to overclock, and chipset
We've previously published chipset guides for both AMD's latest chipsets and Intel's Haswell chipsets, each of which shows the differentiating features between various inter-platform options. This buyer's guide looks at the best gaming motherboards for Intel's Haswell and Devil's Canyon processors, then AMD's FM2+ platform. AM3+ is not considered in this guide, given its age and our decision to abandon the platform in PC build guides. We've also opted to exclude X99 motherboards from this guide, given the added complexity and entirely different architecture.
We'll start with tables, then cover the things to look for in a motherboard, and then move on to our selections for this season.
Ubisoft launched all its AAA titles in one go for the holiday season, it seems. Only days after the buggy launch of Assassin's Creed Unity ($60) – a game we found to use nearly 4GB VRAM in GPU benchmarking – the company pushed Far Cry 4 ($60) into retail channels. Ubisoft continued its partnership with nVidia into Far Cry 4, featuring inclusion of soft shadows, HBAO+, fine-tuned god rays and lighting FX, and other GameWorks-enabled technologies. Perhaps in tow of this partnership, we found AMD cards suffered substantially with Far Cry 4 on PC.
Our Far Cry 4 GPU FPS benchmark analyzes the best video cards for playing Far Cry 4 at max (Ultra) settings. We tested lower settings for optimization on more modest GPU configurations. Our tests benchmarked framerates on the GTX 980 vs. GTX 780 Ti, 770, R9 290X, 270X, 7850, and more. RAM and VRAM consumption were both monitored during playtests, with CPU bottlenecking discovered on some configurations.
Update: For those interested in playing Far Cry 4 near max settings, we just put together this PC build guide for a DIY FC4 PC.
It's “Black November” again – presumably next year will be “Black 2015,” at the rate we're going. Regardless, there are legitimately worthwhile sales in the gaming hardware and software worlds. We've got full round-ups coming in short order, but for the meantime, we'll just highlight VisionTek's R9 290 “CryoVenom” sale.
AMD's combinatory APUs (CPU + IGP) just received a price drop, according to an email we received from the company today. In a press release, AMD noted that its flagship A10-7850K APU – equipped with R7 graphics – would be dropping to $143 MSRP from roughly $180. Other price drops include the A10-7700K at $123.
The new prices in AMD's Kaveri-generation APUs are as follows:
It’s been a months-long journey of GTX 800, then GTX 900 rumors, broken embargoes, questions, and anticipation. The GTX 750 Ti saw the debut of NVidia’s Maxwell architecture almost 7 months ago, making for one of the first times the company has ever unveiled a low-end product before its architecture flagship. Then things went silent. Time passed, and as mobile 800-series GPUs began shipping, we still hadn’t heard about what would eventually become the GTX 900 series.
Then a box showed up.
“The World’s Most Advanced GPU” was written on the hefty black and green box, a few phone calls were made, and we knew it was time.
NVidia’s 900 series is rumored for an October launch, but AMD is ramping into more GPUs in the interim. AMD has another graphics card up its sleeves that they’ve been keeping tight-lipped about. The NDA on AMD’s R9 285 expired last week while we were returning home from PAX. VisionTek was quick to send us their press release to us detailing their custom-cooled R9 285. The R9 285 is an interesting card that is focused on improving performance and power efficiency compared to AMD’s R9 280 and nVidia’s GTX 760.
VisionTek prices their R9 285 at $250, which is exactly what AMD’s MSRP is for the card.
AMD continues to perpetuate its FX-series line-up on 2011's AM3+ platform. The company today announced the new FX-8370 CPU, an eight-core X86 processor that ships stock at 4.3GHz, alongside a new “E Series” of FX CPUs. New prices were announced for the entirety of the FX line-up.
AMD's FX-8370 stands as a slight step up from the 8350 at 0.1GHz higher max operating frequency. The unit is marked for $200 flat retail, up against the 8350's MSRP of $180. The E Series of FX CPUs – including the new FX-8370E and FX-8320E – are a lower TDP alternative to eight-core CPUs, shipping at 95W TDP with a 3.3 and 3.2GHz (respectively) modified BCLK. Max frequency is rated as 4.3GHz and 4GHz (respectively). The FX-8370E sells for $200 and is effectively identical in all aspects to the FX-8370, sans lower TDP and lower BCLK. The same goes for the FX-8320E, which is a lower TDP version of the FX-8320. The FX-8320E sells for $147.
FRAPS has been in the gameplay capture business for over a decade now, inarguably serving as the best solution for early gameplay video recordings. The advent of casual streaming and competitive eSports has finally pushed recorded game content to widespread consumption. ISP-provided datarates have mostly stabilized to usable levels, which helps in production and consumption of high bit-rate content.
ShadowPlay was announced as a FRAPS alternative last year by nVidia, and is only compatible with nVidia devices. The tool uses an integrated H.264 video encoder on Kepler and Maxwell hardware, ensuring most the performance drag is loaded on the GPU rather than the CPU; moreover, it's being loaded on specific components of the GPU that are built for video encoding and largely unused while gaming.
FRAPS does no live encoding and only records raw data output, which theoretically means it will have the best quality (lossless), but also demands the most resources in storage and CPU cycles.
NVidia debuted its Fraps-like ShadowPlay video capture technology alongside the GTX 780 almost a year ago, further announcing updates to enable desktop and Java application support in April, 2014. ShadowPlay comes packaged with a suite of nVidia software (GeForce Experience), a bundle that attempts to add extra weight to purchasing decisions when considering AMD's oft-affordable alternatives. AMD has made similar moves with Mantle and game optimization, though hasn't yet moved into the gameplay capture space. Until now.
AMD has included Raptr's "Gaming Evolved" application in its recent driver install packages as an optional add-on. The two companies announced today their "Game Video Recorder," or "GVR," in direct competition to nVidia's ShadowPlay. The GVR shares some similarities to ShadowPlay in its processing, which we'll discuss before getting into AMD specifics.
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