How To Choose A Motherboard: A Guide For Beginners

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Great article, it has info on every small aspect that most mainstream users neglect, and the comparision b/w the chipsets and PCIe lanes support is very useful for first timers.

The fact that memory clearance and slots often get overlooked, its better to have 4 slots for the sake of upgradility. Higher profile sticks often obstruct in cooler installation too.

The chipset part was comprehensive, too. Well ATX form factor is standard nowadays, and given that most mid towers support that, I'd get it over mATX anyday, for more space b/w the components like GPUs.

Also, higher the speed, lower the CL, better the sticks, but the fact that APUs require faster memory for optimal performance, because they use it as VRAM, should be considered. Faster memory helps in OCing too, timings don't matter as much, but yes it should not fall beyond CL11 for 2400MHz.
 

Onus

Titan
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Thomas, I think you got a little lost (though I wouldn't quite say "mired") in motherboard description rather than motherboard selection. You went into great detail on what is available, but very little on why someone might want or need it.
I too have thought about writing on this subject. Novuake, by all means continue with your effort. More data points are almost always helpful, and we know that newbs sometimes need all the help they can get.
 

Crashman

Polypheme
Former Staff

Pick a CPU based on the apps you already use (on the PC you didn't build) and plan to use
Pick cards and storage
Pick the size of the PC you want. Make sure it's big enough for your cards and storage
Pick a motherboard that fits those parameters.

The rest is just, well, mostly reassurance :)
 

Onus

Titan
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This is one reasonable synopsis of the process. What is then necessary is a discussion of slots, ports, and desired options for tweaking, particularly relating to performance (e.g. native vs. 3rd party controllers, VRM quality and BIOS options for overclocking, etc), size constraints, with component quality/longevity thrown in as well.

What is needed is a crosstab table of chipsets and the features they support; e.g. RAID versions, USB3.0, SATA 6Gb/s, etc.

 

lp231

Splendid
How to pick a motherboard
1. Decided on whether you want to go with AMD or Intel
2. Pick a board based on the CPU you want to have
3. Look at socket type, socket type must match the CPU you're getting, so if your getting a socket 1150 CPU, the motherboard must also say socket 1150. Same with AMD, AM3+ CPU must have a board that says AM3+
4. Large cases can fit large boards and small boards. But small cases cannot fit large boards. Best to check out the case specs to see what boards will fit.
5. If you want to run 2 video cards, make sure the board has at least 2x PCIe x16 slots. Those that support CFX and SLI will most likely have the CFX or SLI logo on the motherboard box. But check the motherboard manual or do some online research to confirm on it.
6. Rest are just feature you want to have or not like wifi, Bluetooth, or the need for surround sound speakers. Most audio ports will just be Red, Green, Blue Some board will have that as well as Orange, Black, and Grey.
7. Most important, out of all of them is not to rush on it. Do some research and read lots of reviews before buying.
 

ta152h

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One nitpick, AM1 is the platform for Kabini, not the socket. The socket is FS1b.

The AM1 socket was a different beast. I'm still not sure why AMD chose this name a second time, with that in mind.
 

catatech

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Maybe a comparison of audio chipsets(alc1150, 892,...), network chipsets(Realtek, Intel...), wireless chipses(2x2, 2x3,...), USB supported modes(xfast,...), PS/2 support, ... will also be helpful. Since those components count when a someone buy a motherboard.
 

ta152h

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One thing I'd add is to pay attention to the maker of the motherboard.

I bought an ECS only because it was the only motherboard that had what I wanted. Yes, I know, I still should not have, but I didn't know just how bad they are. It wouldn't use top of the line memory, wouldn't keep memory timings I put in, constantly lost the time, and had a terribly loud fan, on a processor that topped out at 25 watts. Then it started putting up the wrong display resolution, and wouldn't let me change it to the appropriate values for my monitor. I'd have to reset the firmware, then it would work, then fail again two days later. Pure junk.

Technical support was abysmal as well. They solved nothing, and just kept asking me to do things I had already done, and told them I had already done. Entirely useless. I basically just removed the motherboard once the AM1 platform came out, since it was similar enough (I had an a6-5200, on the KBN-I).

I'll never get another ECS. Even if the motherboard was a lemon, the fact they couldn't assist at all, and had one firmware release a few weeks after the first, and then nothing after that, makes it clear the company isn't very good.

I replaced it with an Asrock, because I wanted DisplayPort (this is another important characteristic of a motherboard, make sure it has the video output that matches your monitor, if you have an existing one you wish to use with it), and no more problems.

So getting a reputable brand is always a good idea.
 

lp231

Splendid
Those that comes to toms will want to know a lot of details, and are willing to learn. But for a beginner that dont know what thg is, just tell them what they must match. like amd cpu with amd board. The rest like raid, chipset, pcie lanes and whatever else comes in later on. Giving too much info in the first place just confuses them even more or drives them away from building their own pc as they think its way too complex, so they go and buy prebuilts.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff
This is our second overhaul since 2006. We plan to release future revisions in more-frequent, smaller steps. And I'd personally like ideas on how to make it easier to read. I might even be able to take some stuff out, but probably not much. More important is probably to make sure all of the information is organized in an easily-read manner. Also, there might be a couple not-too-technical things I could add.

So, I'm open to suggestions.

 

zakaron

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I remember my first motherboard swap back in '97, I didn't take into consideration the peripherals I owned to match the connector type. I bought a socket 7 board to run a Cyrix P133+ that had an AT connector for the keyboard... well the Pentium 60 board I was replacing had dual PS/2 ports. I already had a serial mouse, but I was out of luck on the keyboard. I had to go back the next day to the computer show at the ExpoMart to track down an AT to PS/2 converter. Lesson learned: always make sure you have the correct hookups for the peripherals you want to use. IE: do you need PS/2, IDE for that old DVD drive, serial (for legacy device), floppy controller if you still use those ancient things, enough USB ports or do you need a USB hub, etc.
 

Onus

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I think some feature comparison charts or tables could be helpful. Put socket/chipset on the vertical, and feature along the horizontal. My original suggestion ties to the chipset only, and what catatech listed would differentiate motherboards with the same base chipset by listing other distinguishing features.
 

Crashman

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Ouch. That stuff was in the previous versions of the beginner's guide. I was hoping that people would have settled down to SATA and USB by now, just to circumvent your issues, because they make the discussion a little boring and hard to follow.

 

kittle

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So... some suggestions

Since this article is supposed to be for beginners:
AMD vs Intel -- Need to pick one. why? Pros and cons for both
CPU - Speed, # of cores, hyperthreading. whats good, whats not.. and why? (leave out any overclocking discussions)
RAM - how much? .. what kind? and why?
What chipset do I need/want. And why?

-- note that each point has a "why" component. You seem to have left that out of your article.

(Im leaving out PSU, HDD and GPU)


As noted by @ta152h - the manufacturer of the motherboard matters a lot. Some companies make better boards on average that others. but as with everything there are compromises.. Better companies usually charge more.

next a "how-to" section
- how to make sure the CPU will even FIT the motherboard
- how to make sure the CPU is compatible
- how to pick the right RAM (focus on mainstream compatibility, not overclocking)
- how to make sure the board will fit in my case (or how to pick a case for my motherboard)
- how to pick a good motherboard manufacturer


Lastly - since picking a motherboard usually means the person is building a new system, some basic recommendations would be helpful.
Office/Kitchen system -- no gaming, or VERY light gaming
- lower cost
- high reliability (it wont be replaced anytime soon)
- no overclocking
- onboard graphics (or cheap gpu)
- single HDD: 500gb/1TB HD,
- 4GB ram
- 300-400w PSU

Gaming oriented system
- mid to higher cost
- dedicated GPU (single, no SLI)
- overclocking available, but this is not a beginner subject
- SSD boot drive & mechanical storage drive (2TB+)
- 8GB ram or more
- 650w PSU

Anything beyond that.. and the person in question is not a beginner, so the article does not apply.
 

Crashman

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Former Staff


I see what you're saying, but what I think you're really asking for are a CPU guide for beginners, a DRAM guide for beginners, a storage guide for beginners, and more "about you" stuff in the "how to build a computer" guide.

That last thing, maybe an introductory article like "Beginner's Guide To Beginner's Guides: PC Tech 099"
 

Amdlova

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No mention of power suppy. Crap sound. the only reason i get 130 us plus motherboards is because the sound some mother boards have snr 90 db.
I don't care if the mother board will fly some high party lan or other things. I never used the ie 1394 plus E-sata...
for now i got only asrock motherboards because sound nice with my edifier and my akg headphone.
 

silverblue

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I don't recall AMD ever using AM1 prior to the current platform; in the Athlon 64 days they went from 754 to 939 to AM2. Happy to be proven wrong though.
 
I like the article I think it will be s great benefit to inexperienced system builders doing their 1st build. I learned all about this stuff by trial and error back in the AT clone days I wish I would have had such a guide back then. That being said I think I would have focused more on the type of systems most new builders would be most likely to try on their 1st build. Mainly ATX and MATX and the the Intel LGA 1150 & AMD AM3+ and FM2+ models. A new builder shouldn't try to build a LGA 2011 system until they have built of few machines and are familiar with all the nuances of assembling a computer Mini-ITX does present it's own unique challenges of proper components and cooling which should be done by experienced builders. I thought it was great to have a graphic showing good air flow thru the case that can help a void all kinds of heating issues. Again a very good job well done.
 

g-unit1111

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I have a pretty short and straightforward checklist that I use when it's time to buy a new motherboard:

1. Processor going to be used: Intel or AMD?
2. Budget?
3. How much RAM?
4. Form factor - ATX, mATX, mITX?
5. Socket - AM2/3+, FM1/2, LGA 11XX?

For instance my last motherboard purchased last week I answered:

1. Pentium G3258
2. $50
3. 8GB
4. Form factor: Micro ATX
5. Socket: LGA 1150

Based on that I went with the MSI H81M-E33, which was $53 with shipping, and that fit my needs perfectly.
 
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