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Questions and Things to Look for When Buying A Motherboard

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December 21, 2009 3:19:01 PM

I need some help. I've finally decided to build my first computer and I am shopping for motherboards. I have an ATX only case but beyond that I don't really know what to look out for when buying a motherboard. I am going to use the motherboard for gaming and I want it to have crossfire/sli support but everything is still confusing so I have a few questions that I hope you guys can answer.

1. What is the difference between PCI Express 1,2,3...etc. Does it affect gameplay and which do you recommend?

2. AMD or Intel? I was going to get and AMD chip since they're cheaper but now I'm leaning more towards just getting the intel i5 so later i could just upgrade to the top of the line, intel i7.

3. What do the subnumbers (for example, PCI Express 2.0 x16) mean. What's the difference between PCI Express 2.0 X8 and X16 and do they still fit the same components physically.

4. What do you recommend a motherboard should have for a gaming PC?

Any product recommendations or suggestions are appreciated as I am quite lost in the world of building computers.

-Computer n00b
a c 435 V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 3:51:37 PM

I use MSI boards right now, but I go for value, and I've had good luck with msi, ecs, and asrock.
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a b V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 6:51:03 PM

I did as best i can but here answers for your questions.

1. Its basically newer versions of PCI as far as i can tell and they have a higher bandwidth although not exactly sure.

2. Intel i5 lies on Intels mainstream socket and doesn't support intels top of the line processors and never will, if you want upgrade you will have to upgrade your entire comp. I5's platorm supports 2 of intels midrange cpus and wont have high ends on it. therefore you might as well go amd :)  or get the high end 1366 socket which will be more expensive.

3. Physically they are the same but as far as i know (not sure) they have different bandwidths.

4.This is is to vague, i can type a 5 page essay for this lol.
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a b V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 9:55:55 PM

That board is for the i5, just a note. And also, based on personal and friends expiriences, biostar is not a brand i'd go with, notice how its cheap and cheap usually is synomonous with bad.
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a c 435 V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 10:32:18 PM

I recommend you get the 1 year newegg extended warranty for $16.95. Biostar charges about a $30 handling fee to return the board. Newegg will be around forever, and they will give you more options than biostar if the board dies. I use biostar, and have had no problems with it.
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a b V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 10:56:22 PM

Computer n00b said:
I need some help. I've finally decided to build my first computer and I am shopping for motherboards. I have an ATX only case but beyond that I don't really know what to look out for when buying a motherboard. I am going to use the motherboard for gaming and I want it to have crossfire/sli support but everything is still confusing so I have a few questions that I hope you guys can answer.

1. What is the difference between PCI Express 1,2,3...etc. Does it affect gameplay and which do you recommend?

The different numbers that follow it do refer to the bandwidth for the interface. PCIE 2 has twice the bandwidth of PCIE 1.

2. AMD or Intel? I was going to get and AMD chip since they're cheaper but now I'm leaning more towards just getting the intel i5 so later i could just upgrade to the top of the line, intel i7.

This will be a personal preference. Actually, it usually depends on a pricepoint also - if you are looking in a certain price range and have certain demands, one may be better than the other. Currently, Intel has the top CPU on the market, but AMD often wins in the price/performance category. If I were to build now, I'd check one of the Phenom II quads, the i7/i5 or if I had some more cash to spend, the i7 (1366).

3. What do the subnumbers (for example, PCI Express 2.0 x16) mean. What's the difference between PCI Express 2.0 X8 and X16 and do they still fit the same components physically.

The x8 and x16 are also related to the amount of lanes that the interface is set for. x16 is the full amount of power/bandwidth to the attached device. x8 would be half that. If you have a PCIE 2.0 running at x8, it is akin to a PCIE 1.0 running at x16.

4. What do you recommend a motherboard should have for a gaming PC?

If you plan on overclocking, you should look for boards that have been proven for this and have things like solid capacitors, voltage regulators, etc. If you are not looking to OC, then you should look for features that you believe are necessary - number of PCIE slots (if you plan on using more than one for SLI or Crossfire), maximum amount of memory, dual NICs (Network Interface Card) if you need that, NIC speed (gigabit is a must for me and common on most), amount of SATA ports for HDDs and optical drives, USB 3.0/SATA 3 (if it's important to you), warranty, support, etc. You should look at size (ATX, mATX, etc) depending on your case. Most mid-towers and above can fit both of these.

Really, what to look for is up to your needs. I am a fan of Gigabyte or Asus boards, but have not had issues with MSI either. Make sure you get the features you need - if you are only getting/will be using one graphics card, you will probably be fine with only 1 PCIE slot. If you don't need the second NIC, don't worry about that either. Since you are gaming, you probably won't need integrated graphics either.

If I were buying i5/i7 (1156), I'd go for one of the Gigabyte or Asus boards in the 150-170 price range. If I were going for AMD, I'd check out the 790X type boards. If I were going i7 (1366), I'd check out the new boards from Asus or Gigabyte with USB 3.0/SATA 3 - about $40 more than a Asus P6T or the like. If that's out of the ballpark, I would check the P6T or P6T deluxe or Gigabyte UD3 or UD4 type boards.

Any product recommendations or suggestions are appreciated as I am quite lost in the world of building computers.

-Computer n00b



I know that is an awful lot of information above in the quoted section (my answers are below your questions), but truly picking a board depends on need an budget. You said gaming, so that narrows it down a bit, but budget will help further. It will help us choose a CPU and graphics card setup that will help us choose the board as well.

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December 21, 2009 11:06:07 PM

huron said:
I know that is an awful lot of information above in the quoted section (my answers are below your questions), but truly picking a board depends on need an budget. You said gaming, so that narrows it down a bit, but budget will help further. It will help us choose a CPU and graphics card setup that will help us choose the board as well.


Budgets around 500$ but it's more of a vague guild line, I have no problem going a 100-150 above if it means I get something I can keep my computer in use for a while.
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a b V Motherboard
December 21, 2009 11:11:45 PM

Is that $500 for the whole setup (minus the ATX case you already have)? You will need the CPU, motherboard, optical drive, hard drive, RAM, power supply, correct?

I just want to make sure we have the right budget to work with.

What games are you looking to play? That also may help in determining what to suggest.
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December 22, 2009 12:27:06 AM

huron said:
Is that $500 for the whole setup (minus the ATX case you already have)? You will need the CPU, motherboard, optical drive, hard drive, RAM, power supply, correct?

I just want to make sure we have the right budget to work with.

What games are you looking to play? That also may help in determining what to suggest.


correct and the games I'm looking to play are mostly games like CIV 4 (I'm an big fan of sim and strategy games but usually I have to turn the graphics way low on my old computer so I'm hoping I can at least have them on medium without bad lag), I don't need the monster games like Crysis or Farcry 2 (I'd just get them on Xbox 360 anyway) and yes, thats ~$500 for everything but the case (If ur wondering the case is
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
) Thanks for the suggestions so far and please give me some ideas for the motherboard, it's a very confusing, hardware based, world out there.

-Computer n00b
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a b V Motherboard
December 22, 2009 1:13:02 AM

the monster games for game systems like the 360 and ps3 are pretty crappy, consoles cant even come close to graphics compared to PC's :)  and thats a fact so dont try debating it.
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a b V Motherboard
December 22, 2009 4:43:31 PM

Ok...first thing...

Don't buy that graphics card from Best Buy - it's way overpriced. You could get that same item for well below $150. I'd also go for a brand that has a good warranty - EVGA, XFX, etc

Second...I'd go with a different brand of motherboard - Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA - if it were my choice
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December 25, 2009 12:40:07 AM

Alright thanks for telling me, I found it on newegg for way less. And I found this ASUS mobo
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and this XFX graphics card

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and this PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

(I realize it would be overbudget but since my laptop was about 800$ I feel having a desktop in the same price range is fine)

do you see anything wrong with it. BTW whats north/south bridge mean? All suggestions and answers appreciated.

- Computer n00b
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December 27, 2009 9:54:43 PM

If you are looking for a gaming motherboard, first of all things you need to look at is quality of product, you don't want it to die on you after 30 days of use. Look out for high system temps, manufacturing materials, no good HSF's.

Second, u may need your board to last for some time, so you'd wanna buy latest chipset which support SLI or CrossfireX or bot, and at least two PCI-E slots (u might need to upgrade to two GPUs).

Third if you are an enthusiast and u want top of the notch hardware u will certainly wanna look at added board functionality, such as quick OC buttons, V-check points, low temp and energy designs, easy BIOS flashing features and other added extras.

The Intel or AMD question... I'm always on the side of the underdog, but I can't deny the success Intel had lately. If you want to go overkill and futureproof your PC I7 should be your choice. If you just want something that meets your current demands, and is cheap as hell AMD is your best friend.
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