What to Look (Out) for When Considering Motherboards
Motherboards provide the backbone and central nervous system of a PC. They provide the physical connections for the CPU, the DDR3 SDRAM, the GPU, the HDDs and SSDs, and essentially anything else you’ll ever connect to your computer (it’s all connected directly or indirectly to the motherboard). The motherboard also provides the pathways that allow all the other components of the system to communicate.
The motherboard itself (generally) doesn’t increase the system’s speed, but a poorly designed (or poorly chosen) motherboard can slow down and restrict the CPU, Primary Storage (RAM), GPU, or any other component that gets connected to it. Motherboards can also contribute to power-savings, or if the motherboard has issues, it can cause stability problems and configuration hassles throughout the duration of its life (not fun)! If you don’t yet see what I’m saying here, the motherboard can either be a boon or a bane to the system. This doesn’t mean you need to spend $300 dollars on one, but it does mean you should do your research and know the ‘board is going to work for you and your components!
Like the CPU, the motherboard is one of the hardest components (if not the hardest!) to remove and it will dictate which CPU, Primary Storage, and GPU that you can run as well as what additional features and peripherals you can properly connect (including secondary storage such as SSDs and HDDs).
It’s very easy to get carried away with “gaming” orientated motherboards that cost well and above $200 dollars, but if you don’t need the additional features they provide (often targeted at over-clocking enthusiasts) then this is likely money that could be better spent elsewhere (for ASUS look at ‘boards with the “PRO” label and try to avoid the “MAXIMUS” and, to a lesser extent, the “DELUXE” labels)!
When considering motherboards, look at specifically how they differ from one another, and then consider the cost increases for the extra features to see if you really want to pay for them. $100-150 for a motherboard should be more than enough for the system that we’re designing here and a firm upper limit of $200 should likely be heeded unless you absolutely need a feature that a more expensive motherboard provides (such as extra SATA ports).
Note: I’ll get into this more in the GPU section, but our motherboards will not be targeted at SLI/Crossfire. If you desperately want this option be sure to know the technology firmly before you invest into it and only then start looking for motherboards that meet your needs. There will likely be a motherboard that’s the same as the one below but with extra PCIe 2.0 16x slots (likely scaled down to 8x speed when configured in SLI!).
From my personal experience, I only suggest using ASUS brand motherboards (or ASRock, which was spun off of ASUS). I have simply had the best luck with these. I like their BIOS/UEFI, feature-sets, and have found them to be very stable, well made, and durable. Intel brand motherboards are also suppose to be solid (albeit a bit spartan) and I’m sure there are other brands that you may personally like and prefer and have had great experiences with, but I can only speak from my own experiences and, as such, ASUS it is for my brand of choice.
With that said, the ASUS boards I suggest below should have comparable options from any of the major brands! I recommend looking at warranties, as brands that offer longer warranties should offer better supported and more reliable products!
On the next page we’ll see the Suggestion and Alternate for our system!