Top motherboards become more expensive with each new generation. Despite the fact that mid-budget models have enough functionality and stability even for the most powerful processors, manufacturers never cease to amaze with a set of functions, a margin of safety for overclocking, and the appearance of premium models. Will all this additional body kit or tops be useful to the user in practice – is it just an opportunity to “flex muscles” and “show who is cooler” for manufacturers? Let’s take a look at this text.
Foreword or “It used to be cheaper!”
High-end motherboards have always been a chance for manufacturers to show what technical marvels they are capable of. Premium models stand apart, in which all the most modern technological solutions are integrated at the time of release.
However, in recent years there has been a tendency for manufacturers to increase the price tag for top models. For example, even a decade and a half ago, the most “cool” boards at a price did not exceed $300-350. The Gigabyte G1 Turbo 975X board fell into this price bracket when it went on sale in 2006. At the same time, it already had its own power supply cooling system, high-quality sound from Creative, support for two video cards in SLI, POST codes indicator, overclocking reset button regardless of other BIOS settings … And all this cost $ 334 at the start.
A slightly later GA-EP45-EXTREME with a unique cooling system designed for extreme overclocking had a similar cost.
At the same time, the modern successor of Gigabyte’s top motherboards – Aorus Z690 Xtreme WaterForce – already costs almost $2000!
Of course, board prices didn’t go up overnight—they went up a little every generation. But the prices for modern tops, compared to their former representatives even five years ago, are still impressive, not to mention the older ones. We will try to figure out what are the reasons for such a rise in price and whether it is really worth it.
What affects the price
Despite the fact that these boards are among the “best of the best”, they are based on conventional mainstream chipsets. The same chipsets are used to produce modern mid-budget models with a price tag of $250. So why such an overpayment, what components of the boards have such a strong influence on the price?
The power supply system of top motherboards differs from the motherboards of the middle and budget price segments. In addition to the huge number of power phases, each phase is designed for higher operating currents. In sum, the number of phases and their maximum current can transfer an incredible amount of energy to the processor. Even in overclocking, the capabilities of the power subsystem of top motherboards are unlikely to be fully utilized – modern models can transfer more than 1 kW of power to the processor at the peak.
Motherboard ASRock TRX40 TAICHI 54 999 *
High-end boards are equipped with well-thought-out cooling – radiators and heat pipes, often designed with the possibility of installing water cooling. But even in his absence, the board is unlikely to overheat – heat removal is implemented as competently as possible and with a large margin. Modern models are often equipped with a full cover that can quickly remove heat from hot, fast NVME drives.
Top boards are necessarily equipped with additional controllers and better replacements for standard ones, which include sound and network cards. To output sound, a top-end built-in codec with additional amplifiers is usually used, or a discrete solution. Networking capabilities can be represented by several fast controllers instead of one standard 1 Gbps controller. An optional USB controller can be used to increase the number of fast ports. In general, there are many options.
Motherboard MSI MEG X570S ACE MAX 49 499 *
Often, even top-end chipsets lack the ability to connect peripherals to simultaneously implement all the additional features of the best motherboards. In this case, PCI-E switches, or switches, are additionally soldered on the boards – they allow you to more flexibly configure the operation of additional controllers, giving speed priority to certain devices. In modern boards, they are most often used to support a large number of NVME drives. The layout of the board, taking into account switches, also leads to an increase in the cost of the final product.
Motherboard ASUS ROG CROSSHAIR VIII EXTREME 95 999 *
The board’s visual alerts, such as screens, backlighting, and POST code indicators, also add value. And if the backlight and indicators cost, relatively speaking, a penny, then built-in screens are the most expensive. Often it is because of them that the cost of the board skyrockets.
What is the real point
Of course, more options are always better. But in what cases will the user really benefit from the above?
A high-quality power supply system will be useful for fans of overclocking, especially extreme ones. Even in the case of incredible power consumption of overclocked top-end processors, the motherboard power system will not become a limitation for reaching high frequencies and conquering new records.
Top-end cooling of the board is also useful primarily for overclockers. But it can also be useful for those who use the computer in overclocking 24/7 to faster perform projects that require processor power – for example, rendering. When using a large number of fast NVME SSDs, the heatsinks of the board will also be a plus for their stable operation.
Many additional controllers will allow you not to buy additional expansion boards. Top boards already have a good sound codec and a fast network adapter installed, they are equipped with the largest number of fast USB ports and, often, a large number of slots for working with M2 drives. This makes it unnecessary to buy a separate sound card, high-speed network adapter and PCI-E expansion cards that add support for several more M2 or USB ports.
Thanks to PCI-E switches , you can adjust the bandwidth of the expansion slots or ports on the board to your needs, allowing you to simultaneously work with more devices you need – drives, video cards, or devices connected via USB or Thunderbolt . The flexibility of such a solution will be much greater than the standard chipset forces. For example, top motherboards based on the Z690 chipset, with the help of switches (and an expansion board included in the kit), already allow you to organize a storage system with five NVME drives at full speed 4.0×4. At the same time, only three M2 format SSDs can be connected on their own chipset at this speed.
Visual alerts make overclocking easier and give your build a unique look . This is especially true for boards with displays – thanks to proprietary software, they can display a lot of different information about the system, and on some models even their own pictures and animations.
High-end motherboards do contain more expensive and complex electronics than their more budget-friendly counterparts. In addition, the layout is more complicated, since all additional components must be placed somewhere within the standard size of the board. This explains their high cost. True, only partly.
Since premium-class motherboards are also a fashion product for the company, the markup is higher. As a result, the final price of boards is determined by hardware and marketing factors. Therefore, for the average user, it often turns out to be, to put it mildly, surprising.
But the flagships of the companies do not pretend to the mass market. First of all, they are intended for overclockers and for users who want to have “everything of the very best” in their board without price restrictions, so top boards are often produced in limited editions. Then slightly simplified models based on flagships are released to the market, which are superior to budget counterparts, but are a step or two below the top-end motherboards. They usually have almost the same power margin, offer slightly less peripheral capabilities, but are cheaper, produced in large numbers, and are more accessible to the average user.