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Motherboards, why pay more?

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January 19, 2012 11:12:17 PM

Hello,

I am considering purchasing an ivy bridge i5 processor and new motherboard later this year. I currently have a Phenom X4 965 at 3.7ghz, a Sata2 120GB SSD, 8GB of DDR3 1600, a GTX 480, and a ASRock Extreme3 motherboard. I intend on getting an ATX motherboard but I am unsure how much money to invest in one. I would not like to build myself into a corner by not having an SLI upgrade path, and plan to do some modest overclocking with an aftermarket cooler. I am interested in doing some mild overclocking, but probably not more than I can get from stock voltage, or possibly a few bumps past that. I am always a little apprehensive to drop 200 on a motherboard but that seems to be a pretty common price point for enthusiasts.

My question is, what differentiates a 100-150 dollar motherboard from a 150-250 dollar motherboard?

I'm assuming I can get a board that can handle dual card configurations, and sata3 without spending much more than 130. I can't get my phenom II stable past 3.7 no matter what I tweak, and I am aware it could be my motherboard's voltage regulator, CPU, or novice OC skills that could be to blame. I am definitely considering investing more if it means a more stable overclock. At a certain point though, is it even worth spending an extra 100 on a motherboard if I could just get a cheaper motherboard with an i7? I am also marginally concerned about the long term stability of my components, but in reality, I get an itch to upgrade every year so.

-Miles

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January 19, 2012 11:22:17 PM

Sometimes its little more than a paint job. Write down a list of everything you want in a motherboard then use that criteria to make your selection. Its no good splitting hairs about if the board does 16x, 8x, 8x, or 16x, 16x, 4x, if all you are ever going to do is do dual gpu's.

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January 19, 2012 11:38:02 PM
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I would personally recommend staying away from motherboards that are around $100 or less. They're good for barebones computers but I've found that if the computer is used extensively or if you OC at all, it just doesn't last long and you'll probably be frustrated at the lack of features(also I've noticed most cheap motherboards have some pretty bad layouts, but not always). For primary computers that get quite a bit of use I recommend at least $130~$150 on a motherboard. This is the normal price of course, deals/sales are another thing :) . And honestly anything past $200 is pretty hard rationalize to buy imo. The motherboards that are $250-$300+ tend to have nf200, a bunch of pcie x4, 8, 16, etc. which is really only good if you plan on doing sli x3 or x4, and a crap ton of usb slots. Also some of those really expensive ones just use expensive materials that really doesn't increase the performance, just the longevity (so instead of lasting 5-6 years, it would last 8-10).
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January 19, 2012 11:48:48 PM

If you go with motherboards from either ASUS or Gigabyte, there is no discernible difference between the low and high end in term of quality. The differences come more in terms of features which may or not be useful to you. As totalknowledge said, it is about getting the features you want.

The high end boards will have heavy duty voltage regulators and capacitors, fancy heatsinks, gold plated contacts, built in Wifi, premium sound, etc... It is up to you whether you need these things or not.

These days, more and more uATX boards are coming with dual card capabilities, and the quality is just as good. In general, you are just not paying for a bunch of extra motherboard real estate you would not use any way. They do away with PCI, and in some cases PCIe x1 slots.

On second tier boards such as Asrock, and MSI, there is some difference between the high and low ends. Most second tier boards work, but the defect and DOA rates are usually higher due to lesser component and manufacturing process/testing quality. They cut corners in these areas to sell at a lower price.

Then you have third tier products from Foxconn, ECS, Jetway, Biostar, etc... Quality is minimal all across the line. They are often OK for basic systems, but really not intended for high power gaming rigs, regardless of claims they may make.
January 19, 2012 11:56:51 PM

Thanks for the quick and concise responses! What a great forum : )
January 19, 2012 11:57:35 PM

$100 motherboards are usually a great price to aim at. Below that are boards wich lacks features, and above that you are wasting your money.

More expensive boards have more quantity, for example: 14 USB ports instead of 10, as well of 2 esata ports instead of 1 or none and 2 Firewire 400 ports instead of 1 or none. In terms of build quality, they are all the same.

More expensive boards also have more GPU PCI-express lanes and they really overcharge for this.

And extremelly expensive boards have bult-in bluetooth, but thats $300. And none have builti wi-fi
January 19, 2012 11:59:00 PM

ASRock IS Asus...

Lasting 8-10 years o.O I don't know anyone using a 10 year old computer. No I take that back, I do know one guy. He is a bit of a Luddite however.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASRock
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January 20, 2012 12:05:49 AM

I agree with tlmck, although I'd probably move ASRock up. Reviews have found that even their cheaper boards use quality components like solid caps and ferrite chokes. Those are becoming common on more boards even in the midrange these days. Like he said, feature set is what will tell them apart. Look for number and type of ports (especially USB3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s) and, if you're an overclocker, additional phases in the voltage regulator (one area where ASRock comes up weak compared to Asus). Pay attention to layout, such as whether or not a long video card or cards might obstruct SATA ports, and check for extras that may interest you like legacy connectors (e.g. IDE), onboard power and reset, or a rear panel clear CMOS.
a b V Motherboard
January 20, 2012 4:38:15 AM

Onus said:
I agree with tlmck, although I'd probably move ASRock up. Reviews have found that even their cheaper boards use quality components like solid caps and ferrite chokes. Those are becoming common on more boards even in the midrange these days. Like he said, feature set is what will tell them apart. Look for number and type of ports (especially USB3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s) and, if you're an overclocker, additional phases in the voltage regulator (one area where ASRock comes up weak compared to Asus). Pay attention to layout, such as whether or not a long video card or cards might obstruct SATA ports, and check for extras that may interest you like legacy connectors (e.g. IDE), onboard power and reset, or a rear panel clear CMOS.


Asrock does use the components that you describe, just a cheaper grade. If you look closely at their boards, particularly the back, their trace lines and solder joints are often just so so. Their base board material is usually thinner as well. Their overall quality is also a bit spotty just as with MSI.

For every forum post extolling their virtues, I see at least 12 with problems.
January 20, 2012 10:40:53 AM

ASRock is ASUS's way of beta testing its new boards. Which is why they tend to have a few more bugs than ASUS boards. In 2007 ASUS decided to upstream the ASRock label however, so they have improved since then.

Sort of like GM and Saturn.
January 26, 2012 11:27:46 PM

Best answer selected by liamecrow.
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January 26, 2012 11:36:25 PM

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