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Choosing LGA 1155 Motherboard

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January 26, 2011 9:05:33 PM

I'm having trouble choosing a sandy bridge motherboard for a gaming computer. I plan on using an i5 2500 (don't care about overclocking). I'm thinking I should get FireWire or else I'll regret not having it. Would it be better to get a firewire addon card or have it built-in? I also need to be able to add Bluetooth (which doesn't come built-in with many boards) and Wifi (the computer wouldn't be close enough to a router).

I don't plan on doing SLI or Crossfire, so that's not a concern. I don't really know about all the PCI ports besides PCIe 2.0 which is used for the GPU. I don't know if I should get ATX or if mATX is fine. I also want USB 3, but I don't need front ports, back only is fine. I don't know what I'd like to add to my computer in the feature (more HDDs, blu-ray burner, sound card, etc) so I'd like to keep my options open.

I'm thinking I should go for P67 as I can use RAM faster than DDR3-1333. If getting built-in FireWire, H67 is really only cheaper if getting an Intel motherboard (and maybe one other brand's board). Without built-in FireWire, pretty much every brand has an H67 motherboard for about $100, give or take a little. There are also a few P67 boards at that price, but mainly from questionable brands.

Two other things I noticed that I wonder about (Newegg specific):

1) Some P67 motherboards from Intel are labeled "(XMP Supports overclocking beyond 1333)" How is this different than the other motherboards?

2) Some motherboards are labeled
"DDR3 2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066"
and others will have the "OC" for the 1600 RAM, too or it'll just be different such as
"DDR3 2200(OC)/2133(OC)/2000(OC)/1600(OC)/ 1333/1066/800"
or
"DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066".
First, is changing the memory multiplier actually overclocking anything (if the RAM is made to support that frequency), and second, why does the labeling vary like this?

Motherboards are the most confusing component to pick out for me and I've never built a computer before, so any help is appreciated. :)  I'd be using this for quite a few years so quality is important.

Edit: Forgot to ask, since UEFI is better and the new thing, shouldn't I be looking for something with that? Also, I read a review on Newegg (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131685 second review) that said XMP allowed him to use 1600 RAM...???
a c 107 V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 8:45:27 AM

FireWire: Unless you actually plan to use this interface specifically, don't bother with it. It's actually dying out and becoming less common already. You can always add it in later.

Mainboard: A "budget" P67 would be better if you actually want to use DDR3-1600 RAM at its rated speed. I purchased the $140 ASRock P67 Pro3 for my new system (the parts for which should arrive Friday). I didn't need all the fancy-schmancy crap that came on the other more expensive boards. If you didn't know already, ASRock is the budget line of ASUS.

1. Officially, Sandy Bridge only supports memory speeds up to 1333MHz. A new builder's shiny new 2133MHz RAM kit would default to 1333MHz and they wouldn't know it's not being used to its fullest. If you have new RAM that supports Intel's XMP specifications, you can reach your RAM's full rated speed with one settings change in the BIOS.

2. Related to 1. While it's not actually overclocking, it is going beyond official supported specs. Labeling varies by manufacturer and they go by how tech-savvy their typical customers are. Other differences are simply typos that haven't been corrected.

UEFI isn't fully mature yet, but it will get better and more bug-free. Those boards that don't have it already ... they will switch over soon enough. Once they do, the only way to not switch over is to keep using an outdated BIOS version.

Don't believe all the NewEgg reviews you read. H67 is limited to DDR3-1333 because going higher is considered CPU overclocking (because it's outside officialy supported specs) and H67 cannot overclock the CPU.
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a c 238 V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 1:42:14 PM

1) The 2500 is a fine procesor; you really do not need more for gaming. That said, the extra $15 for the 2500K is not much to give you the option to OC later if you should need it.

2) You will want a discrete graphics card for gaming; the integrated graphics is simply not enough. Therefore, look at a motherboard based on the P67 chipset. Such a board will also allow overclocking on the "K" processors if you wish.

3) A good graphics card will occupy two expansion slots. If you might want cf/sli(which I do not recommend), then it is 4. A standard ATX motherboard will have 7 slots. A micro-ATX motherboard will have 4 slots, and a mini-ITX will have only one slot. I used the ASUS P8P67-M PRO micro-ATX motherboard. The nice thing about micro-ATX is that you can put it in some clever smaller cases. Nice for LAN perties, if you are into that.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

4) For bluetooth and wifi, there are inexpensive usb based devices available. P67 motherboards will have lots of available USB ports available, including a couple of USB3.0 ports.
For this reason, do not restrict your motherboard search; Most P67 boards will work well.
As to firewire, I think USB3.0 will be better if you do not already have a firewire device.

5) P67 needs 1.5v DDR3 ram. All motherboards will support faster ram, but I would not pay much extra for it. It will not show up in better real application performance or FPS. Think 1-3%. Do not be seduced by glowing synthetic benchmarks which are largely irrelevant. I suggest a basic 8gb kit(2 x 4gb) such as this G.skil ddr3-1600:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Don't pay extra for fancy heat spreaders either; they are really for marketing purposes.

6) Asus uses UEFI. It is a more web page like interface to the BIOS. It is not a big deal, and works well.

7) For a great quality, but expensive case, look at the lian li V354:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
It comes in black and red(which is stunning) also.

8) I suggest you download and read the motherboard manual now. It will answer many questions for the new builder.

---good luck---
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 3:00:30 PM

Let me chime in with my 2 cents worth.

I've been researching a LGA1155 (Sandy Bridge) build also and have asked a few questions, too.

But a question that keeps coming up is "How future proof do you want your build to be?"

1. Overclock: For only $10 buck more, get the i5 2500K. You may want to OC in the future. Why not, get more out of what you get for "free." i5 2500K’s can OC to over 4GHz (easily), and beats even the six-core i7 980 in some benches (inc. gaming)!

2. Firewire: unless you have devices using this interface, forget it. It’s a carryover from Macs. But most mobos have in onboard, anyway. (Isn’t this IEEE1394?)

3. Bluetooth: I think all the Asus P8P67 mobos have it onboard. A back port receiver, so not additional hardware required.

4. WiFi: I’d hard wire from the router to the PC. But, does a USB dongle work?

5. SLI/Crossfire: You may not want it now, but in the future. It’s cheaper to xfire a “lesser” graphics card, than buy the latest and greatest one. And often, the xfire will beat a single board. (i.e. 2 Radeon 6850 beat a single 5970 in some benches). And if this is a gaming PC, the gfx is VERY important.

6. ATX vs. mATX: geofelt covered this very well! My only addition is what is the size of the case. Small case = small board (mATX). If you even think you may crossfire in the future, get ATX.

7. USB 3.0: ok. But what if you get a USB 3.0 flash drive, or external HDD, front will be easier! But I don’t know if any cases have USB 3.0 front ports yet. If they are even different than USB 2.0?

8. More HDD: YES! It’s recommended that you have at least 3: 1 SSD for Operating System and Program Files, 1 large HDD for data//media files, and 1 huge HDD for back ups. (i.e. 60GB, 500GB, and 1TB). More if you want to RAID0 the OS drive.

9. Blu-Ray Burner: YES! If not a burner, then a BD player, with DVD/CD burning, with LightScribe (which most are). Not many burn Blu-Rays, yet. But, do you have a “old” DVD/CD player that is IDE, not SATA? This might mean something in mobo choice, as not many support PATA or IDE drives anymore.

10. H67 boards have built in video. Although this may be better than your current card, I’d go with add-in cards (like geofelt said) and go to P67. Yet, this negates part of the benefits of the SB CPU.

11. DDR3 speed: Like geofelt said, with a BIOS "tweak" you can get DDR3-1600 speed full usage easily. Don't get much more than 1600, as the speeds will be unnoticed and wasteful ($). There are plenty of DDR3-1600 kits out there:
a. Try to get one "for the P67 and/or SB chips." (i.e. G.Skill RipJaw X Series)
b. Try to get the lowest latency (CAS or CL) that you can afford, but at least 9, try to get 8.
c. Get at least 4GB (2x2GB), but 8GB would be great. Make sure you also have (Windows 7) 64-bit OS to be able to use it all.

12. XMP Support: I believe this means the mobo will detect the RAM, and set it in the BIOS automatically. I’ve hear that they still often default to 1333, but it’s easy to set this setting in (Asus) BIOS).

13. UEFI: Looks great! But I’ve read that you may need to update the BIOS right away, as they have already worked out bugs.

Yes, mobos can get confusing. I’d go with an Asus P8P67 board. They are many versions of the board: LE, Pro, Sabertooth, Evo, Deluxe, Workstation. Have you watched the videos on newegg for the Asus P67 motherboards?
I think I’m going for the Pro ATX, even though it’s $40 more than the mATX, but…here’s why:
a) Supported memory speeds, even though I’m only getting DDR3-1600.
b) 4 x SATA 6.0Gbps ports, with 4 x SATA 3.0Gbps ports, using Intel chipset. I’ll have to get a SATA optical drive now, probably a BD player.
c) Onboard 7.1 audio, even though I only use one port for my 2.1 speaker set-up.
d) Single onboard Gigabit LAN, using Intel chipset.
e) 2 x PCI-e x16 ports for running Crossfire at x8/x8.
f) Onboard USB 3.0 port for front panel USB 3.0, if I get a front bay adapter or case supporting it.
g) And the other back panel connections, even if I don’t use them. I can always disable them in the BIOS, or UEFI settings as it is.

I’d like to try the Asus Sabertooth P67 motherboard, but it is $30-40 more. I’d rather put that towards more memory, or a BD burner.

Finally, check a couple more things for your build.
1) Get a Operating System that supports all this new hardware, especially memory size: Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium should be fine.
2) Gate a high enough rated Power Supply: 500W, pending on the graphics card, and number of drives. Youcan check here.
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January 27, 2011 4:54:58 PM

Thanks for the advice everyone. I should have mentioned before that my budget is $800-$1050 ($800 was originally planned budget, but I thought adding an extra $250 might be useful for a better GPU and some wiggle room with stuff). I already bought Win7 64 Home Premium and a Spinpoint F3 (total of $140 so subtract that from the budget) around Black Friday.

If I wasn't going to add a second GPU for CF or SLI and I wasn't overclocking (which I've been thinking about, but I still don't like the idea of even though I know how it works and how safe it is), is better RAM and P67 worth the extra $20-40? With slower RAM I could get 8GB of it, but since that much isn't necessary, I'd just save the money if I were getting slower RAM.

Since my budget is not $2000 or anything, stuff like Blu-ray would only be considered as a future option if I needed/wanted it for anything. I also can't afford an SSD (which would not be added ever I think) or more than one HDD at the moment.

Instead of upgrading with a second GPU or anything like that, I think I'd rather just use the computer until it is really getting old (4-5 years maybe? who can tell) and then I'd get a new one. By that point, upgrading probably wouldn't be worth it to me over just getting something new and still having the old computer to give away to a friend or use for X purpose. This way I can also spend less on a PSU (less watts) and don't need to think about microstuttering, heheh.

For FireWire, I do have a device or two that uses it, but I'm not sure if I'll be needing them in the future, but I'd like to be safe and assume I will.

For memory timings, I noticed G.Skill's Sandy Bridge memory has a lot of different models and variations. They have stuff that has 8-8-8-24 then they'll have it with 7-8-7-24 and then with 6-8-6-24. I'm betting it's the same RAM really, but with the second only those two digits changing, is there much of a difference? Wouldn't it perform almost exactly the same if not the same? I'm unsure of what all the timings affect specifically and what better timings would do in general and timings for each frequency (e.g. 2133 at CAS 9 is probably ALWAYS better than 1333 at CAS 7, right? Even in things which like lower CAS?) etc etc.

One final thing, are Intel brand motherboards very good or should I stay away?

Oh, and to "But most mobos have in onboard, anyway. (Isn’t this IEEE1394?) " - A lot of motherboards apparently don't have it.

I have to decide this stuff quickly (at least P67 or H67) because Newegg has a RAM sale (15% off) that ends today =)
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a c 107 V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 5:14:14 PM

Mainboard: this has one FireWire port, Bluetooth, P67 and is inexpensive. This would have been my second choice of mainboard.
Intel brand mainboards are good. Enthusiasts don't like them because they usually don't have all the overclocking options enabled.

RAM: this or this. I chose the first one (and an extra 4GB kit of that same type) because of the RAM sale.
RAM timings are mainly a gimmick to sell more expensive stuff to enthusiasts. The actual benefits aren't worth the cost.

Video Card: Something like a GTX 560 Ti should work, as it is fairly inexpensive yet still very powerful.
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January 27, 2011 6:34:49 PM

Leaps-from-Shadows said:
Mainboard: this has one FireWire port, Bluetooth, P67 and is inexpensive. This would have been my second choice of mainboard.
Intel brand mainboards are good. Enthusiasts don't like them because they usually don't have all the overclocking options enabled.

RAM: this or this. I chose the first one (and an extra 4GB kit of that same type) because of the RAM sale.
RAM timings are mainly a gimmick to sell more expensive stuff to enthusiasts. The actual benefits aren't worth the cost.

Video Card: Something like a GTX 560 Ti should work, as it is fairly inexpensive yet still very powerful.

I thought timings were just as important? Also, if I was going to buy a $160 motherboard and 8 GB of RAM, but then get a GTX 560, wouldn't that money be better put into a GTX 570? I don't understand your reasoning...
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January 27, 2011 6:36:23 PM

I wouldn't go for a cheap ASUS. They cut corners on the cheaper models whilst Gigabyte usually are good. The ASUS P7H55-M/USB3 I just bought has really bad sound ALC887 and a flimsy metal I/O shield, bonkers overclocking options, quite bad.
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 7:11:52 PM

You only want H67 if you plan to use the onboard video. Do you plan too?
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a b V Motherboard
January 27, 2011 7:15:48 PM

doive1231 said:
I wouldn't go for a cheap ASUS. They cut corners on the cheaper models whilst Gigabyte usually are good. The ASUS P7H55-M/USB3 I just bought has really bad sound ALC887 and a flimsy metal I/O shield, bonkers overclocking options, quite bad.


Well, you got a "cheap" Asus board. Why did you get a H55 chipset board, instead of P55. There are known issues with H55 chipsets, across all manufactures.

My Asus P6T, with it's x58 chipset rocks!

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January 27, 2011 7:32:17 PM

I would never use the IGP (unless my GPU broke). The only reason I'd get H67 is a cheaper price and I have no use for P67 features besides maybe the faster RAM. However, for all the cheaper (sub $130 or whatever) motherboards, are they just lower quality? Am I really saving money by getting a, say, $115 motherboard (like Intel's P67 that doesn't support 1600 DDR3 or some H67 board), will the extra price of a nice P67 (say at $150 or $160) be worth it because the quality is higher too besides the high RAM capability? I'm almost ready to say screw it and get a $160 motherboard that has features I may or may not need and get some 1600 RAM with CAS 7 or 8 even if it isn't much better. =|
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a c 107 V Motherboard
January 28, 2011 3:43:54 AM

doive:
Sorry to burst your bubble, but all mainboards come with a flimsy metal I/O shield. Also, you're comparing an inexpensive but full-featured ATX board to a micro-ATX board. There are going to be differences due to the usage differences, and a lot of micro-ATX boards don't support overclocking.

helpme:
I recommended getting 8GB because it was on sale, and because I will no longer recommend that anyone get less than that. Even if you only play games, 8GB will make game loading time and level loading times less, and graphics will be smoother with less graphical anomalies (missing textures and such).

If you're not going to overclock, and if you don't need Bluetooth right away, then get the $118 Intel BOXDP67BA full-ATX mainboard (not the micro-ATX one). Sandy Bridge will be plenty fast even with 'only' DDR-1333 CL9 RAM. That'll save you some extra money for a GTX 570 GPU.
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a b V Motherboard
January 28, 2011 5:25:12 AM

^ YES. Intel doesn't OC, that's a fact. That, and 8GB is a bit overkill, but fun to have. 4GB won't bottleneck your system though, so don't feel bad if you landed with 4GB (I know I did).

If you plan wisely, you can go this way:

Asus P8P67 Pro motherboard and two MSI GTX460 Cylcone 1GB GD5 cards in SLI.

That will give you all you need: Great OC support (for the future, obviously), XFire & SLI support, onboard Bluetooth, Firewire, eSATA and many more.

Also, with the GFX setup being cheaper than a GTX570 (OK, not ALWAYS cheaper, but more or less the same price), you will get much better performance than from a single GTX570.
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January 28, 2011 2:06:36 PM

Leaps-from-Shadows said:

graphics will be smoother with less graphical anomalies (missing textures and such).

I believe you're referring to the article where Tom's tested using lots of RAM. They tested games and the FPS wasn't very different, then they just added into the conclusion the graphics glitches thing. (Edit: wasn't quite the conclusion of the whole article but whatever)

The only picture they showed of a graphics glitch was GTA IV which I believe is known for being a buggy port anyway. Back in a 2009 article testing different amounts of RAM they said 8GB was unnecessary (but I guess GPUs are more memory hungry these days)

I think they need to do an article on these "graphics anomalies" instead of just throwing that into the conclusion and saying you need more RAM... That would be an interesting read, but probably hard for them to test.

Anyway, I didn't end up buying RAM yesterday because something came up (just $10 off or so, not a big deal), but I'm planning on getting P67 (probably an ASUS, I'll read some reviews) and some 4GB 1600 or 1866 (not much of a cost difference with G.SKILL) but I saw an Anandtech chart comparing timings vs frequency with 1600 and 1866 I need to check out later. I decided on this for two reasons: 1) I'd rather have slight overkill speed and be satisfied with it and mainly 2) I found out a certain program I'm going to be using a lot is often memory bandwidth bound and the RAM will make a significant difference. Maybe some day I'll add another 4GB, too.

Thanks for the help everyone. :) 

Edit: Forgot to say, I'm planning on getting a GTX 570 as well. Maybe my budget will be pushed up just a bit higher, but I'm going to be using it for years so its all good.
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