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Best Micro ATX mobo+CPU for gaming rig

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February 7, 2011 4:43:00 AM

A while back I got together a custom gaming rig using the Apevia X-Qpack2 form factor case, an old AM2 mobo, an Athlon X2 64 2.8GHz CPU, and an 8800 GTS. Since then, I've upgraded my PSU to a Corsair, my GPU to a GTX 460, and I've added 2 more sticks of DDR2 RAM (equaling 4 total).
However, due to the relatively old mobo design, my CPU (basically the best that this board supports) is now a pretty major bottleneck to the system. It's time for an upgrade.
Basically, I'm looking for the best mATX motherboard for my case. I'd like it to still have 4 RAM slots, as well as a PCI-E slot for my GTX (I'm not planning any SLI). Most importantly, I'm looking for one that will support the best medium-high end gaming processor for my system, one that will essentially minimize the bottleneck caused by the GPU. Intel or AMD, it doesn't matter to me.
As for budget, I'd like to not spend more than $300 total if possible (I have no idea if this is realistic or not).
I don't need anything crazy, I'd just like to be able to play most modern games with good framerates at max settings.

If there's any more information that's needed, or if I'm mistaken in an assumption, please alert me. I'm not completely new to PCs, but I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to micro mobos, which is why I came here. If getting a good gaming CPU isn't possible for this kind of case, I'll have to get a new one, but I'd like to avoid that.

Thanks in advance!

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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 7, 2011 12:57:59 PM

You'll also need to replace your RAM to DDR3. I have little doubt that you are bottlenecking.

AMD:
$160 CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$105 MOBO: ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$265

$41 RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 TW3X4G1333C http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$306 RAM INCL

Optional:
{+$40} $200 CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

INTEL:
$209 CPU: Intel Core i5-760 2.8GHz Quad-Core http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$75 MOBO: EVGA P55V 120-LF-E651-TR http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$284

$41 RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 TW3X4G1333C http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$325 RAM INCL

Optional:
{optional} $90 ASUS P7H55-M LX http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

{+$49} $140 ASUS Maximus III GENE http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hope this helps!
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February 7, 2011 2:52:19 PM

jaquith said:
You'll also need to replace your RAM to DDR3. I have little doubt that you are bottlenecking.

AMD:
$160 CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$105 MOBO: ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$265

$41 RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 TW3X4G1333C http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$306 RAM INCL

Optional:
{+$40} $200 CPU: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

INTEL:
$209 CPU: Intel Core i5-760 2.8GHz Quad-Core http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$75 MOBO: EVGA P55V 120-LF-E651-TR http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$284

$41 RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 TW3X4G1333C http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
====
$325 RAM INCL

Optional:
{optional} $90 ASUS P7H55-M LX http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

{+$49} $140 ASUS Maximus III GENE http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hope this helps!



Thanks for all the different options! I actually considered a similar set up with 965 but with a different mobo. That one was $40 cheaper, but it was DDR2. I hadn't actually ever thought about the type of RAM I have bottlenecking the system, but if it's a significant upgrade I'll get the one you suggested. And, since I'll be spending a fair bit on an upgrade anyway, that Phenom II x6 looks like it'll last me for quite a while. Seems like after this my GPU will have to take turn bottlenecking after this :p 
Just a small concern, if I upgrade to the first option mobo, the Phenom II x6, and the 4gb DDR3, will my Corsair 500w still be able to handle all that?

Otherwise, thanks again, great answer!
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 7, 2011 3:05:06 PM

Yeah, there's budget and there's oh crap for $40 6-core, but still very close to budget. OC is easier with the 'Black' editions...but you cannot OC to create 2-cores!

Keep in mind, all of these mATX have onboard GPUs and 'do' hinder {bottleneck} the discrete GPUs. To aid, disable both in Windows and BIOS the GPU and at the very least reduce the onboard GPU's shared RAM. Both the EVGA P55V & ASUS Maximus III GENE do NOT have that problem and that's why I listed them above.

DDR2 vs DDR3 is not the 'problem' it's the MOBO architecture and chipsets used by the DDR2 MOBOs. Therefore moving 2 steps forward and 1 step back isn't a good idea.

Great bottleneck video {Linus} -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGdo75gasaQ
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February 7, 2011 5:34:52 PM

For the price, you cannot beat the GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H (AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX). I bought one of these to replace a my brother's board that fried. I was extremely impressed with this board. It has about everything you can ask for in any package. Plus, this board has Gigabyte's new ULTRA Durable technology that has 2X the copper and Dual Bios modules. It has almost 1200 reviews on Newegg. My brother says that his system sped up noticeably after I installed this board for him. I would take a look at it. At $70, I dare any other board in this price range board to match it for features and performance.
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February 7, 2011 8:11:52 PM

jungleexplorer said:
For the price, you cannot beat the GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H (AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX). I bought one of these to replace a my brother's board that fried. I was extremely impressed with this board. It has about everything you can ask for in any package. Plus, this board has Gigabyte's new ULTRA Durable technology that has 2X the copper and Dual Bios modules. It has almost 1200 reviews on Newegg. My brother says that his system sped up noticeably after I installed this board for him. I would take a look at it. At $70, I dare any other board in this price range board to match it for features and performance.


Thanks for your input!
I've checked out the board (which is unfortunately out of stock on Newegg at the moment), and it looks great for the price. My concern is that if I go for this board, I won't be able to upgrade to the DDR3 memory. Then again, as jaquith said, the memory itself isn't where the speed upgrade lies, but rather the mobo architecture as a whole. It's a tough pick now, as the board you mentioned is less expensive on its own, and if I went with it I would save another $40 from being able to use the same memory sticks I have now.

I'll certainly consider this one too. I'd like to keep this thread open just a little longer to gain some more input on the matter of which board to pick, but so far I've received a lot of help, thanks.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 7, 2011 8:50:12 PM

I would love -- to love GA! The reason that I don't recommend them isn't by chance or oversight, it's because overall they are the number 1 'bad MOBO' in this forum. Either by my criteria 'determined faulty MOBO' or {that I don't count} by 'problematic'. :pfff: 

MOBO's are best unnoticed, simply there and for those folks they're great -- enjoy! :)  By revenue alone ASUS is 10X that of Gigabyte, so I would assume 10X the numbers of problems -- WRONG -- in this forum GA represents the majority of problems.

So you tell me...

My rating: EVGA, ASUS, ASRock, MSI,.....GA.
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February 7, 2011 9:18:32 PM

Hah, yikes. I'll probably go with the first option offered by jaquith, as it should definitely be a nice up-to-date upgrade with noticeable gains in performance, without spending all that much money.
Thanks for all answers and suggestions, found everything I needed to know here!
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February 7, 2011 9:18:52 PM

Best answer selected by klbg.
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February 8, 2011 2:16:41 PM

Sorry to hijack your thread, but I hope you wouldn't mind as your question has been answered.

I'll be looking at a Sandy Bridge (i5 2500k) mATX motherboards later this year, the chipset problems would have been corrected by then, so I'm wondering,

What are the drawbacks of a mATX board over an ATX board, apart from lesser PCI/PCI-E ports ?

Also, found that you can't OC the EVGA P55V. Is that pretty much standard across all uATX boards ?

@Mods, could you keep the thread open for a little longer ? Thanks.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 8, 2011 2:40:10 PM

Yeah, m/uATX often have more drawbacks than E/ATX counterparts. The plus of the P55V is it's the cheapest SLI MOBO. Based on the OP 'case' it didn't seem important or a listed requirement; hence options e.g. ASUS Maximus III GENE.

Even MANY P67 ATX MOBO don't OC either -- especially true with Intel P67 MOBOs. Also, in your case the i5 2500K will not OC on an H67. There are always 'caveats' to every MOBO/CPU/RAM/etc you name it.

In general go by the following {Draft}:


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February 8, 2011 4:35:53 PM

Thanks, but could you elaborate the drawbacks (of uATX over ATX) in a bit detail ?
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 8, 2011 5:32:42 PM

There's NO 'vanilla' answer; there are overlapping qualities in both form factors. There are 'extreme' & 'lame' examples in both ATX & mATX. The ONLY guaranteed differences are SIZE, PCIe limits {2-WAY CF/SLI}, and EXTREME Phase power.

The mATX is great for HTPC, LAN Gaming, and 'typical' desktop use. Conversely, they are not good if they don't meet the (3) limitations above e.g. extreme gaming.
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February 9, 2011 6:23:47 AM

jaquith said:
There's NO 'vanilla' answer; there are overlapping qualities in both form factors. There are 'extreme' & 'lame' examples in both ATX & mATX. The ONLY guaranteed differences are SIZE, PCIe limits {2-WAY CF/SLI}, and EXTREME Phase power.

The mATX is great for HTPC, LAN Gaming, and 'typical' desktop use. Conversely, they are not good if they don't meet the (3) limitations above e.g. extreme gaming.


I'm sorry, but what is 'Extreme phase power' ?

And are there mATX based boards that don't have limitations normally associated with mATX, primarily OCability (Single PCI-E slots will do) and other factors that you mentioned ? And can you install aftermarket coolers on mATX boards ?
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 9, 2011 12:33:07 PM

The highest phase in a mATX that 'I' know of is 8+2+2 and the counter parts 16+ phases. The Phases are used to power the CPU/RAM/IMC. All of this is good for extreme OC.

You can OC most mATX MOBO, both the ASUS Maximus III GENE & ASUS Rampage III GENE are excellent examples. CPU FAN - most all are compatible and there are huge ones like the Noctua NH-D14 that have problems as it does with many MOBO regardless of the form factor.

To 'me' high-end' mATX purpose is primarily for LAN Party PCs, a 2-WAY GTX 580 in a Rampage III GENE is not a smart idea for an 'everyday' Gaming rig. Reason - assuming you are looking at a >small< case that's A LOT OF HEAT in a tiny space vs a FULL sized case with superior air flow.
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February 9, 2011 8:03:59 PM

jaquith said:
The highest phase in a mATX that 'I' know of is 8+2+2 and the counter parts 16+ phases. The Phases are used to power the CPU/RAM/IMC. All of this is good for extreme OC.

You can OC most mATX MOBO, both the ASUS Maximus III GENE & ASUS Rampage III GENE are excellent examples. CPU FAN - most all are compatible and there are huge ones like the Noctua NH-D14 that have problems as it does with many MOBO regardless of the form factor.

To 'me' high-end' mATX purpose is primarily for LAN Party PCs, a 2-WAY GTX 580 in a Rampage III GENE is not a smart idea for an 'everyday' Gaming rig. Reason - assuming you are looking at a >small< case that's A LOT OF HEAT in a tiny space vs a FULL sized case with superior air flow.


Thanks ! That clears pretty much all my doubts.

I'm contemplating building a PC in a suitcase for portability. So I was looking at mATX boards, but initially I got the feeling that mATX was as useless as laptops I had originally intended on buying. Nothing speaks power for budget like an i5 2500K and a HD6850/GTX 460.

I'll go for mild overclocks as too much heat will be a problem in tropical summers, and anyway, I want longevity over two seconds of performance boost. Also, I've never overclocked before. (See my signature for the reason. :D  )

Let's see what Sandy Bridge mATX boards are available in two months. Thanks for all the answers. Sorry I can't award a best answer here.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 9, 2011 8:27:12 PM

Important note, review again the "Recommended Configurations..." table above. The 'K' CPU is pointless in anything BUT a P67 or 'Z68' and in your case get the P67 u/mATX. Also, some 'damn' P67's won't allow OC of the CPU Multiplier -- so be very careful.

If I had to choose right now, I would look at the ASUS P8P67-M PRO uATX http://usa.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=iT2FJPCMOGBHClu4&... but in a couple months there'll be others. Keep an eye on EVGA.

Good Luck! :sol: 

BTW - if you click on my avatar you'll see I'm actually Gold and too many B.A. broke the Gold badge; PHP glitch -- I post in this section alone because I like it.
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February 9, 2011 8:59:40 PM

I'll keep that in mind. Thank you.

jaquith said:

BTW - if you click on my avatar you'll see I'm actually Gold and too many B.A. broke the Gold badge; PHP glitch -- I post in this section alone because I like it.


I'm not sure I understand the part in bold.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 9, 2011 9:11:25 PM

kkiddu said:
Sorry I can't award a best answer here.

Best Answers don't do me any good.
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February 9, 2011 9:21:45 PM

jaquith said:
B.A. Best Answer. My badge shows 'bronze' http://m.bestofmedia.com/i/commun/forum/badge1.png but in reality I'm 'gold' http://m.bestofmedia.com/i/commun/forum/badge3.png because I broke the system. See http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/profile-388864.htm In other words after ~160+ {I'm probably ~250+} Best Answers I reverted to what you see, and Best Answers don't do me any good.


Oh, so you had so many accomplishments that the counter rolled over to 0..or something like that. I get it.

And I didn't even notice that it was a bronze. They look so similar (Bronze and gold. :)  )

Anyway, thanks for the assistance.
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a c 716 V Motherboard
a b 4 Gaming
February 9, 2011 9:35:39 PM

Yep...Good Luck!
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February 10, 2011 2:49:16 PM

klbg said:
Thanks for your input!
I've checked out the board (which is unfortunately out of stock on Newegg at the moment), and it looks great for the price. My concern is that if I go for this board, I won't be able to upgrade to the DDR3 memory. Then again, as jaquith said, the memory itself isn't where the speed upgrade lies, but rather the mobo architecture as a whole. It's a tough pick now, as the board you mentioned is less expensive on its own, and if I went with it I would save another $40 from being able to use the same memory sticks I have now.

I'll certainly consider this one too. I'd like to keep this thread open just a little longer to gain some more input on the matter of which board to pick, but so far I've received a lot of help, thanks.







The GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H is just $99 and is a DDR3 board. It also is a SATA 6GB/s and USB 3.0 board. You should be future proof for a while with this board. But you will have to upgrade your ram and your CPU if your go with this board, so you may exceed your $300 spend limit. The board I mentioned before is AM3 compatible so you can upgrade to the latest AMD cpu. None of the stats I looked at suggest that DDR3 offers a huge boost over DDR2. I just built an new quad core Full Tower from scratch for $411 on Newegg. I used only top rated modern components (ie. AM3 CPU, DDR3 Ram, SATA 6GB/s Hard Drive etc.) So if you are willing to spend a little more you could build a dedicated AMD based gaming system for around $400 if you use your current GPU and DVD drive. Then you could use your old system for an internet and office only rig. That is my current setup. I have 24 LCD monitor and a KVA switcher that changes between my gaming rig and my internet rig. This way I never have to worry about burdening my gaming system with security software, because it is never connected to the internet unless I am gaming. And if a bad virus gets on my internet rig, I can reformat and reinstall windows without losing anything important.
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