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ASUS M5A97 R2.0 AM3+ AMD 970 + SB950 6 x SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: Fast
Fancy BIOS Screen
Excellent Hardware Features
Crossfire/SLI-Ready

Cons: CPU and Case Fan Power are awkwardly placed

Other Thoughts: As a budget PC gamer, this is by far the most feature-enriched motherboard I've ever owned.

The fast-boot feature works extremely well with an SSD. My last motherboard was a Gigabyte, and while it worked fine I was always disappointed with how slow my startup times seemed to be even with an SSD. With this motherboard's fast startup feature enabled it's noticeably faster.

The physical buttons that were added to fast boot or boot straight to the BIOS menu seem promising, however I haven't had much use for them yet. I've seen case modifications where people have hooked the BIOS menu button to an external button, which seems pretty cool to me, but that's obviously not something that comes "out of the box" with this motherboard.

Also, this is a bit silly to admit but the BIOS menu itself just looks awesome on this motherboard. I've never seen a BIOS menu where you can use a mouse (perhaps because I've stuck with budget motherboards until now), so that was pretty cool. It also provides easy presets for power-saving, performance or a balance of the two.

Really my only complaint is that the plug for the CPU (the 8-pin connector from the PSU, not the CPU fan plug) is really awkwardly placed. It's at the very top of the board, and for my case (Rosewill Challenger) this meant it was about a half-inch from top edge of the case. Adding in the Cooler Master Hyper 212 cooler that I have and I had to use a pair of tweezers to plug in the power. The case fan plug is similarly placed, but closer to the RAM slots so that was also a bit of a pain (only applicable if you're not using molex connectors for your case fans).

All in all, this is by far the best and coolest budget motherboard I've ever owned. I might have to stick with ASUS from now on.

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Rosewill CHALLENGER - Black Gaming ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Three Included Fans - 1 x Front Blue LED 120mm Fan, 1 x Top 140mm Fan, 1 x Rear 120mm Fan - Two More Optional Side 120mm Fans Supported
  • Owned For: 1 week to 1 month

Pros: Spacious
Excellent Cable Management
Side-Facing HDD Bay
Front-Panel Placement is convenient
Good Airflow
Tool-Less HDD Mounting

Cons: Basic
Side-Facing HDD Bay (see other thoughts)
Fan Power Cable Placement is awkward
Awkward Tool-Less Mounting for 5.25" bays

Other Thoughts: I "downgraded" from an old Antec 900 case to this, and for my purposes I have to say I like the Challenger much better. Even though the Antec 900 is bigger, the Challenger seems to have more practical space. A Cooler Master Hyper 212 CPU HSF fits just fine (although it only has a half-inch or so of clearance, so don't go much taller than this). This could be aided by the superior cable management options and the side-facing HDD bay.

On that note, I listed the side-facing HDD bay as both a pro and a con. I much prefer the cable management advantages that a side-facing bay offers, however I believe that a front-facing bay suits my needs better with the easier access to the HDDs as well as the cable management advantages it offers.

The front panel is also very convenient in that it faces forward with a slight angle up. Compared to the Antec 900, where the buttons face up and are slightly angled forward. This seems silly, but I have a cat who likes to jump on my tower and having the buttons in a place where a paw won't hit the reset switch is more important than it should be. There's also an eSata port on the front panel, which I haven't used yet but it's a nice feature to have available.

The external 5.25" bay mounting system is a bit strange. It is tool-less but it's one of the stranger systems I've seen. Honestly I can't see anyone having to swap out a CD drive as often as something like a HDD, so I feel like making this tool-less was unnecessary. As I was standing the case up upon finishing the installation of all the components I ended up pushing the CD drive a bit out of place, so I had to open the case back up and re-secure it.

The case seems to be about as heavy as you'd expect from a steel case, maybe slightly lighter. There are no handles and really nowhere convenient to grip in general, so I wouldn't recommend this for a PC with LAN parties specifically in mind. It's no worse off that most cases in that regard, though, so I wouldn't call that a pro or con.

I think that this case is fantastic for someone like myself who isn't doing any overclocking so airflow isn't nearly as much of a concern as it is for the hardcore enthusiast. Additionally, this case just looks basic, for lack of a better term, compared to a flashier case like the Antec 900 (which isn't even terribly flashy to begin with). However, there really isn't anything significantly wrong about this case, so I'd say the pros far outweigh the cons.

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Patrick S.'s Profile

Display Name: Patrick S.

Date Joined: 08/06/05

  • Reviews: 2
  • Helpfulness: 1
  • First Review: 08/11/14
  • Last Review: 08/11/14
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