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Old 03-08-2011, 10:27 PM   #1
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Default What to look for in a Motherboard

I've always wondered, what are the specific things to look for in a motherboard? The other components are pretty straight forward, faster is better. But for a mobo, it seems you can find one for $100 and one for $500 both that support for example, DDR3 1800, LGA1366, USB 3.0, and so on. What is it that makes a good motherboard? The North and South bridges?
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Old 03-09-2011, 05:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: What to look for in a Motherboard

You want to shop for a motherboard based on the intended use first. If it's going to be in an HTPC or a system for someone who isn't going to use the features of a full board, you can get away with a MicroATX or so. Full size ATX will have more expansion slots and more features, and often (not always!) have more features than the MicroATX.

Next, you need to look at the CPU. Will you be running Intel or AMD? Since those are the only two choices in the x86 arena these days, its pretty easy to figure out which way you're going to go. Which socket are you going to buy, which processor, etc. You need to match the CPU to the socket on the motherboard, then you can shop for the next bit.

Chipset. Is this an enthusiast PC? Are you going to use the onboard video (in the case with Intel SandyBridge CPUs or the lower end AMD chips that use the onboard video) or are you going to buy a motherboard that has the slots available to expand enough to add the cards you need for say the video card, sound card (if not using the onboard) or any other peripherals (TV Capture, etc)

Next, I would look at the RAM slot capacity and number of slots. Most good full size ATX boards come with 4 slots, and the MicroATX come with 2, but as always, this can vary, so check your specs. If you intend to run a system with a lot of RAM, more slots is generally good, but keep in mind you can get very large RAM amounts with just two slots. The downside of course is that if you upgrade to more memory later, you have to toss out what you already have.

Lastly, I would consider specs of the motherboard. Does it support SATA 3? USB 3? Are you using those kinds of components? Do you even care? If you're building a money saver low power system, probably not. But for a cutting edge gamer or power user system, it might be worth it to spend a few extra bucks.

That's just the basics. I'm sure others will chime in with their recommendations.
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: What to look for in a Motherboard

Yeah, I know those, but even with all the external features I need, right chipset, SLI if I so decide there is still a big price range on the boards. An MSI costs $120 while an Asus costs $400 for some.
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:24 PM   #4
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Default Re: What to look for in a Motherboard

Don't blow $400 on a motherboard unless you're a die hard fanatical who wants the best at everything and you intend to overclock it (and overclock it high with liquid cooling, etc)

To wit, I won't buy a motherboard that is priced more than $200 unless it's a server motherboard. There's just no reason. There are some fine options at the lower levels and you won't sacrifice much, if anything, by going that route.

Look at motherboards from the big guys - Gigabyte, Asus, etc. If it has the features you want, the layout looks good (i.e. side mounted SATA ports vs straight down, etc) then find a board with good reviews (and I mean more than just how many eggs it has on Newegg) and go for it. It's only as difficult as you make it to be.
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