Where’s Intel When You Need Them?

As readers of this blog know, I’m a long-time happy user of Intel desktop boards. I’ve now been using Intel boards for my main machine continuously for over 15 years (D865PERL, DG965RY, DQ67OW, DQ77CP); I have some fond and some less fond memories of Intel Advanced/AS (Atlantis) Pentium board, and good experience with AN430TX and AL440LX boards.

For me, Intel boards have always been extremely reliable (the DQ67OW board has been running since 2011 and still works great), the boards are not loaded with gimmicks but no-nonsense and very business-like. Intel boards are not for overclockers, they’re for people who need to get work done. Intel’s support has been very good and Intel still provides downloads for very old boards.

Unfortunately Intel quit the board business five years ago. And although the DQ77CP board with a Core i7-3770 processor, 32GB RAM, and a SSD is no slouch even today, there’s not much further one can go with Intel boards (just a little bit). For a modern desktop CPU with 8 or more cores, I’d need a board from ASUS or MSI or Gigabyte or whoever.

Only… if I have to buy an ASUS or MSI board, why bother with an Intel CPU at all and not get a Ryzen instead? AMD’s recent offerings have been difficult to refuse and the Ryzen 9 CPUs are very, very tempting.

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14 Responses to Where’s Intel When You Need Them?

  1. Chris M. says:

    I’ve been toying with replacing my long time machine I have done some research that might be of use.

    I’ve had good luck with Gigabyte boards, but nothing recent. They seem to be quick with BIOS updates though. I haven’t touched a MSI board in years, but folks are saying they are lagging with AMD BIOS updates at the moment. ASUS seems to just be overpriced for the feature set these days. If legacy ports are a concern, both Gigabyte and MSI still ship boards with PS/2, parallel, and serial headers.

    ASRock seems to be much improved over the years. I have considered one of their boards for a future build (both Intel and AMD). The Taichi line seems to be well received and offers optional 10GbE on the X470 and Z390 boards. I’m still waiting for them to release the X570 Creator to see how they do on the AMD workstation end of things (only board with onboard Thunderbolt 3, 10GbE, and minimal bling).

    Supermicro has gotten back in the consumer board game. They are likely well built and stable, but folks complain about their weird UEFI defaults and configuration layout. They are the only vendor combining 10GbE and a PLX chip on z390 (ASUS is the other one, but their board is nearly twice the price with no 10GbE). They still haven’t dabbled with Ryzen boards though.

    I’ve noticed that everyone is back to using AMI for UEFI. I guess their Aptio V core checks all the boxes for board makers.

  2. If I didn’t live so close to China I most likely wouldn’t bother with the old Xeons or weird boards.

    The Amd offerings are very good looking, although don’t they have major bottleneck issues with Windows still?

    On the server side the epyc2 looks nothing short of amazing.

  3. Chris M. says:

    Windows 10 1903 has a Ryzen optimized scheduler now.

  4. Michal Necasek says:

    Based on the benchmarks I’ve seen the bottlenecks aren’t too bad. It seems like single-thread performance is on par with Intel, but you get more cores. Which would be useful for the kind of workloads I tend to wait for (compilation).

    And yes, the latest Windows 10 should have some improvements.

  5. Michal Necasek says:

    Thanks for the info. I currently have limited need for 10GbE but I would love to not have to use a Realtek NIC, since I have nothing but bad experience with those (both wired and WiFi, just not reliable).

    Supermicro does tend to have odd BIOSes and configs, but the hardware is very solid in my experience. ASRock used to specialize in “interesting” boards that no one else did, like Phenom + AGP but I guess they’re more mainstream now.

  6. Chris M. says:

    Most every decent board has Intel networking on it these days, including the “gamer” boards as it seems that there was a bit of a backlash with those “Killer” NICs. The 10GbE chips are usually Aquantia. Figures after I mention the X570 Creator that ASRock finally posted the spec. page on it today. They still do “interesting” boards, just different I/O these days.

  7. Michal Necasek says:

    After a quick research I kind of like the ASRock X570 Extreme4, it’s a relatively simple board not overloaded with crap I don’t care for (like WiFi). I also realized that I’d much rather buy a board with 1GbE and get a separate 10GbE PCIe card than shell out extra hundreds of bucks for a board when I have no immediate need for 10GbE.

  8. Dale Smoker says:

    “Intel boards are … for people who need to get work done.”

    Exactly! When they stopped manufacturing desktop boards, and after failing to find a suitable Intel server (i.e. workstation) board, I went with a very sturdy ‘looking’ Asus P6X58D Premium desktop board. Later, when the time came to build out more storage, I discovered that the system wouldn’t reliably bring add-in cards out of low power states.

    I recently paid EVGA a premium for an X299 FTW-K board and their “legendary customer support”. The latter turned out to be a patronizing run-around when it came to implement VROC but the board has otherwise been solid.

    I wish I could buy rigs that fit my specs rather than having to perform my own builds. The research, configuration, and bench testing are tiresome. All just so I can “get work done.”

  9. Sledge says:

    I’m in a similar situation – Intel boards only for the last 15 years, never had a problem with them, right now I’m rocking DH77KC with i5-3570 and 12GB RAM. Still great for what I need it for, but in 2-3 (maybe 4) years upgrade will be inevitable. And then? Probably AMD, it’s time to switch sides for a while 🙂

  10. Michal Necasek says:

    Yeah, the 7-Series Ivy Bridge boards with enough RAM still aren’t bad. The i7-3770 I have here is nominally 3.4 GHz but runs at about 3.7 GHz when doing builds with 100% CPU load. It’s really not slow.

    I looked into getting one of Intel’s last boards, more for nostalgia’s sake than practical use (since quad core CPUs is where it ends). The DZ87KLT-75K seems nearly impossible to find, though DQ87PG is available. Unfortunately it looks like Intel killed the desktop board business so thoroughly that those boards don’t support the Haswell Refresh or Broadwell CPUs, even though a BIOS update is all it would take.

  11. Michal Necasek says:

    Thanks, I thought I’d seen something but couldn’t find the link again. As I mentioned, the hardware is perfectly capable, only Intel decided to play dead. Kind of a sad end of the Intel board line.

  12. Michal Necasek says:

    Actually… this very much reminds me of updating a DZ68DB board to support Ivy Bridge CPUs. The BIOS included updated ME firmware, but the ME was not updated as part of the BIOS update process. I had to explicitly update the ME firmware and lo and behold, newer CPUs worked.

    Intel now offers ME firmware version 9.1.41.3024 for the DQ87PG, I wonder if that’s actually good enough to support the refreshed CPUs. Intel of course won’t say anything officially.

  13. zeurkous says:

    Y’know (and this is prolly of no help to you at all *sigh*), more than
    a decade ago, megot sick of all the add-on features, and figured that
    mememight as well have a look at all that fancy backplane stuff that
    may inflict a bit of undue distress on me wallet, but that might just be
    the right thing(tm).

    Boy, did that turn into a disappointment. “Large processor with huge
    cooler, cheap ATA, cheap ethernet, cheap audio, cheap … on one little
    add-in card with very special “standard” interface! Oh, and if you want
    to use a couple of simple ISA devices, you’ll be in a bit of trouble
    with the newer stuff. Sorry. AmEx or Visa?”

    Polaroid wasn’t on the list.

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