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Phenom X4 955BE/Radeon HD6790 build... need mobo advice

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August 18, 2011 7:04:24 PM

Quick background...
I'm currently running an ancient system with a 2GHz Athlon (single core), 1GB RAM, you get the idea. I primarily use it for photo editing, I have a Canon 5D and shoot RAW so there is a bit of crunching and it would be nice to speed things up. I'd like to be able to play some games but I'm not hardcore there, I don't play online FPS or RTS or anything, so it doesn't need to be blazing. I would like to be able to play Skyrim but I know how demanding Oblivion was for its time. Just something that will chug along for a few years.

I'd like to spend under $700 including a copy of Windows 7 (OEM, $100). I priced out a system around $550 without OS, based around the Phenom X4 955 Black and Radeon HD 6790. It breaks down something like this:

X4 955 BE: $120
HD 6790: $140
???Motherboard: $65?
2x4GB 1333 RAM: $55
1.5TB 7200RPM HDD: $70
500W PSU: $40 (instant rebate)
???Motherboard: $65?
Case, fans, DVDRW: $70

Obviously there's some fudge factor in there, I don't care what the case looks like, HDD/PSU prices fluctuate, etc. What I really need help with is choosing a motherboard. I was looking at the Biostar A870U3 -- I'd like something with USB3 and 4 memory slots so I can toss in another 8GB if I want later. I just don't know if that one's a good choice, not sure about that brand. I'm willing to pony up a bit more if it's worth it, so any suggestions are welcomed.

I also wonder if the CPU and GPU are overkill. I wouldn't overclock to a level that requires aftermarket coolers, so is the Black Edition wasted on me? I like the L3 cache but would it make more sense for me to save ~$40 and look at the X3's? At this point, any modern system is going to be a huge improvement over what I'm using now. Would it make sense to drop to a cheaper GPU like the 6770 or even 5670?

I'm ready to pull the trigger very soon, I just need to sort out the details.
August 18, 2011 7:14:58 PM

A good rule of thumb is to spend as much on the CPU as the GPU if gaming is a priority, so you did well with your choice there. As for motherboard, I'd say Biostar is a solid "meh." Not terribly good, though you could do a lot worse for a cheapo board. I've used them before, but tend to avoid if budget allows. Typically I go with Asus, Gigabyte, or EVGA boards and get generally good results. Every manufacturer produces a bum board once in a while, but the best ones make boards that keep working well for years assuming it wasn't DOA. Recently I have a cheapo system I built with a ECS motherboard which I say is about the same quality level as a Biostar board and it died on me after about 2 years of near continuous operation as a server. I have an ASUS board that is filling a similar role in another machine and it's still going strong.

So I'd say you could go with the Biostar, but keep your warranty and receipt handy. Or you could buy a bit more piece of mind with a more expensive board if your budget allows.
August 18, 2011 7:26:31 PM

Thanks for the quick reply.

There's definitely some wiggle room, I wouldn't mind going up to $100 on the mobo if it's worth it, sounds like it is. I'm also wary of micro ATX, is there really any danger of things not fitting, how careful do I have to be choosing a case? That would give me more options, though.

edit: Also, is it worth looking into AM3+ at that point? I don't see a huge difference in price for the features I want, ATX AM3 boards with USB3 are right up near $100 too, I see a few AM3+ boards in athat range. If I can go with micro ATX it looks like there are some cheaper options...
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August 18, 2011 7:53:03 PM

According to the standards, a micro ATX board will fit inside an ATX case, the only difference in dimensions is the amount of room allocated to expansion slots. This means that as long as you don't try to put a full size ATX board inside a micro ATX sized case, you are fine. If you weren't planning on using most of your expansion PCI slots there is not much harm in using a micro ATX board.

As for selecting a specific board and AMD CPU, I can't offer much help there. I think the AM3+ is needed for the latest generation of CPUs, but if you don't plan on using one and don't want to upgrade to one ever, the older ones are a fine choice. Someone else who is more up to date on current AMD processors may be of more help.
August 25, 2011 12:47:11 PM

Thanks for the help. Still looking, definitely having a hard time deciding on a motherboard, if anyone else has any input it's greatly appreciated!
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