Question What one motherboard feature is most important for you when upgrading?

SHaines

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As builders we tend to weigh the value of having the latest technology without spending your life savings just to get a component that'll last you a while.

I tend to be a last generation type of person, so anything I buy is heavily tested and reviewed, plus it can be picked up for a somewhat reasonable price.

What do you think is the most important motherboard feature available today that will keep your system relevant for years to come (even if you need to spend a bit more to get it)?

We look forward to hearing from you!
 
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bit_user

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What do you think is the most important motherboard feature available today that will keep your system relevant for years to come (even if you need to spend a bit more to get it)?
My answer is pretty boring and obvious: x1 and x4 PCIe slots. I used them to add a NVMe drive in a mobo without a M.2 slot, and 2.5 & 10 Gigabit Ethernet cards.

Of course, my most-used mobo feature for adding components is SATA ports. That's if you don't count external USB ports.

Treating the x16 PCIe slot as a special-case, I've upgraded my GPUs about 2-3 times, within the life of a machine.

Finally, I tend to upgrade the memory of each machine about once.
 
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nofanneeded

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4 Lanes PCIe slots ... ALOT of them ! being M2 or regular slots.

I stopped using SATA long time ago ... IMO SATA should disappear . using PCIe slots/M2 Slots saves alot of space plus ALOT OF CABLES being Data or power cables ..

Cleaner , faster to add remove and less cable Spaghetti ..

I actually encourage Motherboard makers to use ALL the available PCIe lanes from the chipset. Sadly no one uses them all ..

True the Chipset connection is only 4 lanes to the CPU , BUT no one uses the SSD all together at the same time (if not in raid) , so lets say a Z390 chipset has 24 lanes ??? use them ALL please give me 6 x PCie x4 SLOTS on the motherboard. and make them non M2 ... so I can choose which is for SSD and which for other cards.
 
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alceryes

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CPU upgradability
Good VRMs (high phase count and current capacity)

I think these are the top two. Almost all boards will have at least one PCIe x16 and a couple PCIe x4 or x1 slots for expansion (like a 2.5G or 10G NIC).
 

Inthrutheoutdoor

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IMHO....

1. VRM, as already stated, for upgrades to newer cpu's

2. PCIE lanes....gimmee MOAR, MOAR, MOAR....

3. MOAR M.2 slots, which of course would be moar betta with the above :)
 

chaz_music

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I would have several suggestions, and not all are critical or "future proofing" but I feel are needed features anyway. Note that these are not thrilling ideas so much as generally sound ideas for the market:

1. Continue the trend of safely covering the electronics on motherboard PCBs, SSDs, HDD, and other electronics so ESD handling practices become less critical. If you read in PC parts reviews about the number of DOAs, you can get a feel for how many ESD events are happening. The SATA SSDs got better reliability from the onset not just because of no rotating parts, but people could not touch the electronics! I have read that the M.2 SSDs have a lower reliability over their SATA SSD cousins. It is a high probablity that is due to the exposed PCB parts. All of these failures for motherboards and parts that get returned drive up the cost of for all of us.

2. More thought into signaling to what in the past have been "dumb" subsystems such as the PSU. If the PC makers would do a full FMEA study, they would be able to identify what scenarios need better protection. For instance, if the PSU detected that it had a power loss, it could signal the motherboard to make mitigations. The CPU and other hardware could draw back power usage, and storage devices could make a last save and then go to idle.

3. DRAM ECC across the board for all systems. Intel has used this as a cash cow for so long that people readily accept that it is a cost adder (like: brainwashed). It isn't! The circuitry needed for this is laughably simple. In almost every other subsystem in your PC, there is error correction already there: HDDs (disk to controller), SATA interface (parity), PCIe bus, SSD (ECC and RAID), and nearly all communication systems (Ethernet, USB, video, etc.). Note that DDR5 has it built into the standard at the die level, so this is coming soon anyway. AMD has this as standard on many of their CPUs, and it has been their philosophy for decades. I built a desktop Athlon system in 2006 that had ECC. Worked great.

4. Like above, add device statistics like SMART to detect failures are accumulating. If there are memory errors occurring at the same address, the OS should let the user know. If core 3 of the CPU keeps having to shut down on thermal and there no heavy load, the user should know. And SMART errors creeping up in the HDD should also be communicated to the user.

5. Subsystems should be "hardened" against cyber attacks. This means that the hardware philosophy should be to not trust the other hardware on the PCB. If your audio CODEC chip is trying to flash the firmware in your USB controller, it should not be allowed. What can the user do that is in hindsight not a good idea, but they do it anyway? Pick up a USB drive in the parking lot and plug it in - and it bricks your whole system. How: it dumps negative 200VDC into your +5V bus. D'oh.

6. I believe the PC industry should consider marketing to gamers and overclockers differently than to PC builders / hobbyists. With some much of the new bios functions going into tweaking CPU and memory timing, very few other features are being added for hobbyists. I got a used Dell and was surprised at the features and testing that could be done within the bios itself. HP is the same way.

I know, not a flashy list, but there are some very usable ideas there anyway.

- Charles
 

Aeacus

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To me, it's build quality.

MoBo can have as many bells as whistles on it as possible but if it doesn't last long then the rest doesn't matter. Also, replacing MoBo is PITA and even during MoBo replacement something can go wrong and break. So, i'd rather pay premium price for a MoBo that lasts me a decade while not having all the bells and whistles, rather than replacing MoBo every year since it flat out dies, despite it having all the bells as whistles.
 
Apr 13, 2020
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Z370 is a solid option IMO, even though Intel doesn't support chips over several generations or obviously you could go the AM4 route.

Depending on what he's using his system for, I would start mid-range with something like an i5-8400 and a z370 board or a Ryzen 5 and b350. Both of these set-ups would give you some upgrade options to more cores for the future (Intel has 8c/16t coming to Z370 boards, Ryzen 7 already has 8c/16t on AM4). But honestly any 4-core or more CPU with relatively recent architecture will be up to the task for 95% of use cases.

If it's a gaming system, upgrading the graphics card is the most important thing. You can run older hardware on the newest games if your card is up to par and that would be the only upgrade he would need for years.
 
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howtobeironic

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A more flexible (and safe) way for BIOS flashes. Gigabyte DualBIOS was a good foolproof but the flashes sometimes revert to backup etc. and it makes it way more complicated than that. I want to deal with no hassle: Download file to usb, flash with whatever program in the BIOS, and save defaults-reboot. I don't want to hold my breath each update for if it would switch to backup or backflash to an uncompatible version (Remember the plethora of updates for ryzen 2xxx compatibility?) and I have to RMA it once more.
 

bit_user

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And the potential to upgrade the CPU later
While I'm not disagreeing in principle, I have built 6* PCs in my life and never upgraded the CPU in any of them.

Perhaps it's a combination of always being able to afford the most appropriate CPU for my needs and the fact that I tend to keep systems long enough that lots of other tech changes that I'd also want to upgrade (e.g. memory speeds, PCIe standard, M.2 slots, etc.).

The only time I've ever upgraded a CPU in my own computer was a Pentium M laptop. And while it worked, by the time I did it, the machine was so old that even a 50% faster-clocked CPU, doubling the RAM, and putting a SSD in it (yeah, you could actually get IDE SSDs for a time) didn't breathe quite the life into the machine that I'd hoped.

(AM4 motherboards take the cake here).
Really? How many first-gen AM4 boards can actually support a Ryzen 3900X? From the little I've seen, motherboard vendors have tended only to provide BIOS updates supporting about 1 gen newer CPUs than the motherboard's chipset.

And then there's memory speeds to consider. Even if you could run a Ryzen 3900X on a 1st-gen AM4 board, would it hit memory bottlenecks with the fastest RAM speeds supported on that board?

Don't get me wrong - I like that AMD has kept AM4 around longer than Intel's customary 2-generation lifespan, but I'm left with the feeling of a promise not quite being kept.

* Note: I built a 7th PC with a motherboard that had a soldered CPU. So, I'm not counting that one.
 

2Be_or_Not2Be

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While I'm not disagreeing in principle, I have built 6* PCs in my life and never upgraded the CPU in any of them.

Perhaps it's a combination of always being able to afford the most appropriate CPU for my needs and the fact that I tend to keep systems long enough that lots of other tech changes that I'd also want to upgrade (e.g. memory speeds, PCIe standard, M.2 slots, etc.).
Having been around for a while, I have to agree here. I've upgraded CPUs a few times, and that was back in the days when just 33Mhz more was a CPU upgrade. Nowadays, I'm getting more usable years from CPUs, so I'm not upgrading as often. When I do, I'm upgrading the board as well since I want to use the new tech on the new boards, whether that is the latest USB version, eSATA, m.2/NVMe, or similar items in years past. So to me, I don't care that boards are "upgradable" - they should have enough resources on the current board for my current needs. If I really need anything newer/different, I will just buy another board; if I bought appropriately right now, that shouldn't happen for another year, at least.
 
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bit_user

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I stopped using SATA long time ago ... IMO SATA should disappear . using PCIe slots/M2 Slots saves alot of space plus ALOT OF CABLES being Data or power cables ..
Just because you don't have a use for SATA doesn't mean no one else does.

SATA is still plenty fast for HDDs. And HDDs offer much more TB/$ and can retain data for several years without power (try that with a recent consumer SSD). For these reasons, most NAS and backup/fileservers still use HDDs.

And speaking of the M.2 form factor, its problems stem from the fact that it clearly wasn't designed for high-performance desktops or servers. They were obviously thinking of ultra-portable laptops. M.2 just seems like a slightly awkward fit, for desktops.
 

bit_user

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1. Continue the trend of safely covering the electronics on motherboard PCBs, SSDs, HDD, and other electronics so ESD handling practices become less critical.
Good points, though that was a sad thought about M.2 reliability issues.

2. More thought into signaling to what in the past have been "dumb" subsystems such as the PSU.
Exactly. If the OS could query the PSU's capacity and current load, then graphics drivers could limit the GPU to avoid overtaxing the PSU and triggering a random reboot. Instead, they could pop up a notice, telling the user that the GPU performance is being limited by their PSU and suggesting an upgrade.

I built a desktop Athlon system in 2006 that had ECC. Worked great.
Back in 2006, you also could build an Intel system with any CPU, and have ECC. At that time, the only requirement was to use a suitable motherboard. This was true until they moved the memory controller into the CPU, in the Nehalem generation.

4. Like above, add device statistics like SMART to detect failures are accumulating. If there are memory errors occurring at the same address, the OS should let the user know. If core 3 of the CPU keeps having to shut down on thermal and there no heavy load, the user should know. And SMART errors creeping up in the HDD should also be communicated to the user.
These are already possible, and even exist, to some extent. You're really just talking about software features & functionality.

And with regard to thermal capacity of CPU cores, this is already a done deal. In AMD CPUs, it's being monitored and the OS is steering work on the basis of which cores have the most thermal headroom. I know some Intel CPUs have certain cores designated for lightly-threaded workloads, but I'm not sure if they do dynamic monitoring and reassessment (though I'm sure they will, in the near future).

5. Subsystems should be "hardened" against cyber attacks. This means that the hardware philosophy should be to not trust the other hardware on the PCB. If your audio CODEC chip is trying to flash the firmware in your USB controller, it should not be allowed.
I think IOMMUs fixed this. I believe it's no longer the case that any device can simply write to any physical address, though I could be wrong about that.

What can the user do that is in hindsight not a good idea, but they do it anyway? Pick up a USB drive in the parking lot and plug it in - and it bricks your whole system. How: it dumps negative 200VDC into your +5V bus. D'oh.
I've certainly read about how malicious USB devices can fry a host, but you don't get -200 VDC without a big capacitor and a DC-to-DC converter, right? You're not simply talking about a defective USB stick or one that's physically damaged?

6. I believe the PC industry should consider marketing to gamers and overclockers differently than to PC builders / hobbyists.
Do you think the non-gaming DIY PC community is really that big, or even growing much? I wish I shared your optimism, but all of the long-term PC market trends are headed in the wrong direction, even if the last few years have been decent.
 

bit_user

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Make sure the board is ATX12VO.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATX#ATX12VO

This greatly simplifies power supplies, but moves DC-to-DC conversion and some connectors to the motherboard instead. Notably, SATA power connectors, which include 3.3V and 5V pins, need to move to the motherboard instead of being connected directly to the power supply.
I'm not a fan of this, as it makes even more of the system's potential expandability dependent on the motherboard (and further crowds precious board space).

I do like there being a standard for OEM PSUs, however. It will be nice to have easy upgrade steps & mulitple options, when faced with a Dell/HP/Lenovo. But, I really hope the DIY market stays away from this. I prefer to have modularity in the PSU, itself.
 

jonnyguru

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATX#ATX12VO

I'm not a fan of this, as it makes even more of the system's potential expandability dependent on the motherboard (and further crowds precious board space).

I do like there being a standard for OEM PSUs, however. It will be nice to have easy upgrade steps & mulitple options, when faced with a Dell/HP/Lenovo. But, I really hope the DIY market stays away from this. I prefer to have modularity in the PSU, itself.
You can still have Molex and SATA connectors on the PSU.

I see it as a directive for the motherboards more than anything. Only thing that really needs to change on the PSU is the main connector and the standby power voltage.
 
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nofanneeded

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Just because you don't have a use for SATA doesn't mean no one else does.

SATA is still plenty fast for HDDs. And HDDs offer much more TB/$ and can retain data for several years without power (try that with a recent consumer SSD). For these reasons, most NAS and backup/fileservers still use HDDs.

And speaking of the M.2 form factor, its problems stem from the fact that it clearly wasn't designed for high-performance desktops or servers. They were obviously thinking of ultra-portable laptops. M.2 just seems like a slightly awkward fit, for desktops.

There are many ways for SATA to disappear ... you just need to be innovative .. for example , make HDD all ALL NVME interface by adding onboard 32GB NVME Cache SSD on all xTB harddisks. no one said Mechanical harddisk should disappear , I said SATA !!!

no need to lecture me about "just because you this and that" and stop assuming people dont know about NAS and what ever.
 

bit_user

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There are many ways for SATA to disappear ... you just need to be innovative .. for example , make HDD all ALL NVME interface by adding onboard 32GB NVME Cache SSD on all xTB harddisks. no one said Mechanical harddisk should disappear , I said SATA !!!
Yeah, I hear you. However, PCIe is overkill for HDDs, so I don't see that happening. And unless/until it does, some of us still need SATA.

Also, if using HDDs for fileserver/backup server, there's not much point in a SSD-based cache. So, I see that trend dying out. And if it does, then the media transfer rate of the disk goes back to being your main limiting factor.
 

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