The dearth of motherboards available for Intel’s Haswell CPU family is pretty incredible – from all vendors and board partners there are several choices for the H81, H87, B85, Q85, Q87 and Z87 chipsets that it becomes a mini-game to sort out which one you need and what features you want or can do without. Sometimes it feels like having a 21-sided die would be useful to narrow things down a bit. Well, we’re going to need a bigger die because ASUS has just sent in their “Gamer” offering to fight off one of the most competitive segments for Haswell motherboards – midrange “gaming motherboards” – with the B85-Pro Gamer.
The ASUS B85-Pro Gamer jumps into a crowded group of motherboards that are either geared towards gamers or simply power users shopping on a budget. It is pitted up against the ASRock B85 K1ller and H87 Performance as well as Gigabyte’s G1 Sniper B5, MSI’s B85-G43 Gaming, ASUS’ B85 Vanguard and some cheap Z87-based motherboards like the ASRock Z87M Extreme 4 and MSI’s Z87-G41.
Most of these boards, aside from the Vanguard and the Z87-G41, feature superior audio solutions with on-board chips that improve sound quality for USB headsets as well as bigger heatsinks, attractive colour schemes, good port layouts, double-slot spacing for the PCI-Express slots and, in some cases, status LEDs and higher-quality capacitors and VRM hardware.
The B85-Pro Gamer follows the same formula, offering a ATX form factor, rotated SATA ports, status LEDs, multiple 4-pin PWN fan headers, good port layouts and expansion options as well as stable power delivery thanks to a 6+2 arrangement for the power phases for the CPU. The audio solution hasn’t been detailed yet but the USB and front-panel audio booster is there as well as Intel’s I217V Gigabit ethernet controller. Strangely, the B85-Pro Gamer does not form part of the ROG family, even though it shares the same colour scheme.
There are four SATA 6GB/s ports and two 3GB/s ports thanks to Intel’s B85 chipset as well as two front-panel USB 3.0 ports and two rear USB 3.0 ports, four (?) USB 2.0 ports, HDMI 1.4a, DVI and VGA connections as well as PS/2 ports for your keyboard and mouse. All in all, it’s a good offering for the mid-range segment who doesn’t need a K-series chip, but it isn’t very innovative either when compared to the other options from ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI.
In fact if the ASRock Z87M Extreme 4 dropped in price it would be the better board to buy, even if you’re only running a standard Core i3 or i5 processor. Still, the B85-Pro Gamer has enough features to keep it relevant and its about time that ASUS had their own B85-based “gaming motherboard” out in the open.