Some gearheads will stand by ABIT to their graves. Its SoftMenu alone made lifelong fans out of first-time overclockers when it was introduced, and the company has a sturdy reputation for building fast, stable and vastly tweakable motherboards. The KR7A RAID carries on that tradition, and we can comfortably recommend it to hardened DIYers.
But as strong as the pull of brand loyalty may be to a techie, this techies opinion was swayed away from ABIT by the speedy, stable, feature-packed and surprisingly affordable Shuttle AK35GTR. This board has power to spare, and configuring it is as easy as wading through the BIOS setup menu; it may not be as neatly organized as ABITs SoftMenu III, but it offers the same level functionality. Its a killer board, and its likely to be in my next desktop system.
ExtremeTech readers tend to be a fairly hands-on bunch, but if youre new to the DIY experience or know somebody who is, steer toward the Gigabyte GA-7VTXH+. It wasnt the benchmark winner and its not as easily configurable as the ABIT or Shuttle boards, but its outstanding documentation gives it an excellent set of newbie training wheels, and its included audio and NIC can save a bargain hunter a few bucks.
We were underwhelmed by generic nature and the mediocre design of the DFI AD70-SR. Take it if someone gives one to you for free, but dont go out of your way trying to find one. Theres very little to set it apart from the vast hordes of motherboards on the market, and tweakers will be miffed by its dependence on physical switches and jumpers.
The bottom-feeders of the bunch are the ECS K7VTA3 v.2 and the maddeningly inconsistent Soyo K7ADA. The ECS doesnt seem ready for sale yet--its layout is better suited for a prototype. And the Soyo seemed stable under normal use, but the benchmark inconsistencies and failures raise a big red flag. We only had the board running for a day or two; theres no telling what flaws weeks or months of normal usage might uncover. And whoevers responsible for its pathetic documentation should be flogged with a dozen dictionaries.
The medal goes to Shuttle, and may there be many other boards like the awe-inspiring AK35GTR.