Now that I'm finally able to finance it, I've decided to begin choosing components for a modestly-priced gaming PC I'm hoping to construct.
The problem I've run into is with regard to motherboards - and it's certainly not that I can't find anything suitable, quite the opposite in fact: it seems I'm so spoilt for choice that I've been totally unable to choose the board that I want.
I've done as much narrowing down as I've been able to do, and so far this is what I've decided: I'm going to be going with the Intel Core i5-2500K processor, so that obviously locks my choice of motherboards to the LGA1155 socket. And of the chipsets available, I've decided to go for something from either the P67 or Z68 range, as I'd like to have the option of overclocking and SLI available, even if I'm not particularly likely to use either of them straight away. I highly doubt that I'm ever going to need twelve-trillion add-on cards, so that's not a concern, but I'd like to know that I have at least enough PCI slots available so that I'm not going to end up in a tough spot if I do decide there's something I would like to add. I'm not going to bother with a discrete sound card, since I assume reasonable quality integrated sound probably comes as standard anyway. If it helps, the video card I'm looking at is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 (though I haven't chosen the exact model yet). And I don't think I'll ever bother with RAID so that's a non-issue. I'm hoping to get something in the under-$200 price range, unless there really is no way I can get a quality product for that amount of money. As far as form-factor is concerned, I'll probably go with a standard ATX. All-in-all, though, the most important aspect as far as I'm concerned is how it performs. Because having a motherboard as a performance bottleneck would, I'd imagine, be a bit of an awkward situation.
Aside from that, though, I have a lot of uncertainties. I have no real idea what differentiates the various brands (or if it even makes sense to differentiate based on brand and that the case-by-case differences between individual boards is all that really matters) and, perhaps most of all, what all these special extras (for instance, the EPU/TPU technology advertised on certain ASUS boards) add to the value of the boards, and how much of a factor they are in making a decision between different potential components.
So if anyone could help point me in the right direction, give a personal recommendation or something it would be much appreciated. No amount of information is too little if it helps me find some direction in this jungle of potential motherboards.
performance between motherboards (at stock speeds) of the same chipset will generally not vary too much (certainly not noticeably). This is how i choose a motherboard. i set my budget, pick a chipset and size (atx, matx, etc), and look at all my available options. the biggest differences are going to be amount (and bandwidth) of pci slots. then i look for connectivity (usb 3.0, amount of sata ports, etc.). then overclocking capabilities (power design and bios options--you can download manuals for potential buys and look through the bios options there). then board layout (are sata ports gonna be blocked by a big video card, is my memory going to fit with next to a big cooler, what do the chipset/vrm heatsinks look like) i generally narrow it down to two or three and start reading reviews. i usually don't look at little things like the audio, color, included accessories, post led etc but that's just personal preference. this wouldn't work for everyone tho. so you may need to move things around based on what your needs are.
as far as the chipset goes, they are pretty much the same. z68 has quick sync and smart response. they are generally the same price so i'd say go for a z68 board. you are looking to crossfire, so a board with two pcie2 x8 slots should do fine. as far as overclocking goes, you usually can't go wrong with asus (though you will probably pay a little more for that brand) or gigabyte.
So there's my opinion. asking questions here is a good step to finding out what would work for you. unfortunately, the lessons we learn the most from are the ones we teach ourselves, even if it is by making mistakes the first time around.