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Shopping for a Motherboard - Do's and Dont's

Posted on 2013-01-06
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I am building a PC and have a Corsair 300R case ?  According to the box it can handle ATX and mATX motherboards...  If I will be doing limited gaming, average movie watching, avergae web surfing, significant MS Office work, and limited photo and video editing can you recommend how to determine a suitable motherboard that will fit this case..

Note since I will be using a graphics card I do not want a board with integrated graphics...

Also if you can recommend a processor that would be great..
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Question by:upobDaPlaya
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by:PaulHend
PaulHend earned 25 total points
ID: 38749625
Supports Micro ATX/Standard ATX motherboards, price is your limit! Depending on your budget you can cruse newegg.com or tomshardware.com to select the best for your needs. Anything made 2011 and above would suit you needs.
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garycase earned 350 total points
ID: 38749685
First, decide which CPU you want -- THEN buy a compatible motherboard.

I'd buy an Ivy Bridge Core i3 or Core i5 CPU ... the i7's are more "horsepower" than you need.
Here's a list of the Ivy Bridge CPU's:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007671%2050001157%20600315409&IsNodeId=1&name=Ivy%20Bridge#

I'd suggest either an i3-3225 ($144.99) or an i5-3570K ($219.99), depending on whether you want dual core or quad core, and just how much performance you want to buy.  [The 3225 scores 4325 on PassMark's CPUMark (an excellent measure of CPU "horsepower");  the 3570K scores 7137.   For comparison purposes, the superb i7-3770 scores 9464;  and a top-of-the-line 3.4GHz Pentium IV from a few years ago scores 422]

Assuming you're going to use an Ivy Bridge CPU, there are a lot of excellent motherboards.    This is a good choice, and has a PCIe x16 slot for a video card:    
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131837

There are a lot of other good choices in both ATX and microATX form factor motherboards.   The full size ATX boards have more ports and generally more onboard features (more SATA ports, more USB headers, etc.) ... but it's unlikely you need those, so a microATX board would be fine -- and is actually a bit easier to install (more maneuverable when putting it in the case).    This would be a good microATX choice:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131832

Note that none of these boards have integrated graphics -- but they DO support the integrated graphics on the newer generation of Intel CPUs.   But you can still install a dedicated graphics card as long as the board has an available PCIe x16 slot -- which most boards do (both of the ones I suggested above do).     However, you may want to give the integrated HD4000 graphics a try before bothering to install a separate card -- it's dramatically better than earlier generations of integrated graphics.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38749720
Can you tell me what you mean when you say there are no integrated graphics on the boards you mention, but some chipsets would support graphics ?  Also do the micro boards you mention have the required 1 pci 16 slot..  I was thinking of doing a graphics card to help the possibility of me connecting 3 monitors...thx
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by:garycase
ID: 38749734
"... Can you tell me what you mean when you say there are no integrated graphics on the boards you mention ..."  ==>  Exactly what I said -- the boards do NOT have integrated graphics.    The newer generations of Intel CPU's have graphics adapters integrated IN THE CHIP.    This allows much better performance, since the GPU is very tightly integrated with the CPU.     This DOES require that the chipset on the motherboard have the ability to route the video signals from the chip to ports on the ATX panel on the back of the motherboard.    So the motherboard has the appropriate video connections on the rear -- but does NOT have any video capability on the board itself.     So if you buy an i3/i5/k7 without integrated graphics (there are a few without integrated graphics), you won't have any graphics available without an add-in board.

Both of the boards I suggested have PCIe x16 slots.

Note that the HD4000 graphics (not all of the Intel chips have HD4000 -- some have HD2500 or HD3000) supports 3 monitors without the need for an add-in card.
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by:terencino
terencino earned 75 total points
ID: 38749735
You need this awesome motherboard picker! There are a couple of others out there, which you should use for comparison. This this has some ratings and you can easily filter out anything you don't like.

I've filtered out micro ATX boards on this list since your case is not ideal for micro ATX. Top of the list is an old entry level Intel. For your use, this would be fine, plus with the money you save you can fill it up with RAM, buy a small SSD for your OS partition, and have some change for an early Q6600 quad processor off eBay Supports 64-bit OS.

This is probably the minimum configuration for your requirements, and as PaulHend said, price is your limit.

I have an old HP XW4400 with a similar configuration, and it's great for my requirements which are similar to yours. Only things I wish are built in wireless and powered eSATA

Have fun
...Terry
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by:wolfcamel
wolfcamel earned 50 total points
ID: 38749892
for your needs I wouldn't get too carried away.
like the above have said - choose your CPU first.
then the motherboard.
Criteria I would look at..
6G Sata - most should have
USB 3 - most should have
number of USB sockets
on board RAID - can be handy if you want to increase your storage capacity
Number of RAM sockets and RAM support - some basic boards only have 2 sockets.

ALSO - where you buy from may have just as much relevance - will it be convenient to for support/warranty etc - a local PC supplier may be just as cheap as online and provide some local help.

You typically wont find much NOTICABLE performance difference between boards - personally if you can see the difference for the apps you are using then why spend extra because some performance test said one board is 1% faster than another!

As above has said - an entry level SSD to install the OS will give you great performance benefits - I cant recommend this enough.

Also - if a board has integrated graphics don't discount it - when you plug your graphics card in the onboard graphics will typically be disabled - and on some boards it can supplement your card to give you three monitor outputs.
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by:garycase
ID: 38750165
A few thoughts on some of the above comments ...

"... You need this awesome motherboard picker ..."  ==>   :-)    I'd hardly call this "awesome".    Any good reseller's filtering setup will give you much better granularity, and won't tend to mix multiple sockets and CPU technologies together (although you can filter those to some extent with this filter).

"... your case is not ideal for micro ATX. "  ==>  Not at all true.    An ATX case is excellent for a microATX board ... it provides more "working room" when installing it;  allows for better airflow than you'd have with either a microATX case with a microATX board or with an ATX board in the ATX case;  and generally has more room for expansion than a smaller case does.

"... an early Q6600 quad processor off of e-bay ..."  ==>  Notwithstanding the risk of a used CPU,  this also means you'd be buying a very early Core architecture CPU that's far less efficient than the newer 2nd and 3rd generation units.    For example, a Q6600 scores  2952 on Passmark;   a bottom-of-the-line Ivy Bridge Pentium G2120 scores effectively the same (2933) ... and it does so with only 2 cores (so it's FAR more powerful per/core); and while only using 55 watts of power, compared to 105 watts for the Q6600.

Also, don't be concerned about whether the board has 2 or 4 memory sockets.   With unbuffered RAM you're FAR better off only installing 2 modules anyway -- it puts a much smaller load on the memory and address buses;  and your memory subsystem will be much more reliable.    Buy a pair of high-capacity modules and you'll have plenty of memory for a desktop system [I'd use 2 8GB modules for a total of 16GB;  but the simple fact is that a pair of 4GB modules (8GB total) is plenty for most systems.

The suggestion to use an SSD for your OS is a good one -- that's one of the best performance boosters you can do to a system.     For rock solid reliability, I'd buy an Intel unit -- the new 335 is a superb SSD that provides 240GB of storage for only $200;  or you can get a 120GB 330 for ~ $120.    I'd stay away from the OCZ Vertex units -- they've had far too many reliability issues the last couple years (they're excellent units ... they just fail too often).

By far the most important bit of advice is the first line I wrote above:   "... First, decide which CPU you want -- THEN buy a compatible motherboard."

... and for performance, your best bet is one of the Intel Ivy Bridge units;  followed by the previous generation Sandy Bridge processors (which are slightly less expensive, but still have superb performance).
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by:terencino
ID: 38750665
Well I guess the votes are in and garycase's configuration wins 3 to 1. It is SATA III current technology while my recommendation is SATA II. garycase's is a setup that will do what you want with room to spare, and anyone would be happy with, even me if I wasn't so cheap. And on that score...
System configupobDaPlaya, your use is very similar to mine, except I don't play games. My machine runs 64-bit Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 (that is not a recommendation by the way) and makes my financial models a breeze. It happily burns and plays Blu-Ray disks, and runs 20GB MKV video files without a hitch. I tested it on Can You Run It? to see if could run Far Cry 3 and it failed due to the graphics card I have, but no doubt yours is much better. The card is an old NVIDIA with 2xDVI which run 2x24" monitors, and I could run another if I had space on my desk.

One thing to watch is the cost, which could easily go over $1000 when all the other bits needed to make an operational machine are accounted for. And sometimes you don't notice the difference. Coincidentally just two days ago I swapped my trusty old Corsair P64 with an Intel 240GB 335 series, and noticed no significant difference to my user experience.

Good luck with your decision, either way it is a lot of fun building your own PC.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38750891
Garycase...I like the hd4000 route...can you recommend one of Intels products that has hd4000...since the motherboards you recommend support it and it seems to fit my needs..a dedicated graphics card seems like overkill..
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by:garycase
ID: 38752869
Both of the CPU's I suggested [i3-3225 and i5-3570k have HD4000 graphics.      Note that if you decide to get the i5, be sure you get the 3570K -- NOT the 3570, which has a lower-performing graphics core (HD2500).
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38753273
Thanks garycase I shopped around tonite and found a good price for the 3570k...the only thing I was stumped by was figuring out the correct CPU cooler required for the 3570k..it seems I do not need one since I have no intention of doing any overclocking..the fan that comes with the processor should be fine ?


thx again this post has been quite helpful in providing guidance..
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by:garycase
ID: 38753312
You're correct -- the stock Intel cooler that ships with the 3570k retail boxed version is just fine.    The Ivy Bridge CPU's run very cool compared to their predecessors -- they consume notably less power while providing far more capability.    As an example, a 3.4GHz Pentium D used 130 watts, compared to 77 watts for a 3570k -- but the 3570k is more than ten times as powerful PLUS has a superb integrated graphics core (the HD4000) !!    There is really no reason to overclock these -- in fact they effectively overclock themselves a bit when needed -- that's what the "turbo" mode is  (for a 3570k it will bump its internal frequency up from 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz in this mode).

Be sure you buy the boxed version -- an OEM version is sometimes a bit less expensive BUT there are two major differences:  (a)  it doesn't include a cooler;  and (b) it's warrantied for 90 days, vs. 3 years for the retail version.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38757612
garycase, what is a high capacity module..is this high capacity...thx

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartspecs.aspx?mtbpoid=36C09B25A5CA7304
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by:garycase
ID: 38757940
Yes, that would be perfect.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38761626
Hi Garycase,

Final question and I promise to close out the post.  Can you recommend an entry level SSD and a HD ?  

I am doing this as a fun project with my 13 year old nephew so thanks for the help.  So far it has been a great learning experience and we lare both looking forward to Friday when our Motherboard and intel processor are suppose to arrive :)
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by:garycase
ID: 38761909
I've used a lot of SSDs, but by far the most reliable have been Intels.    The only SSDs I buy now are Intels (330,335, or 500 series) and Crucial M4s.   For SSD that's intended for an OS drive, with your data stored on a traditional drive, you can use as small as a 60GB drive, although I prefer to go no smaller than 120GB.

You can get a 120GB Intel 330 series drive for $124.99, or a 128GB Crucial M4 for $119.99.    Either would be excellent (I'm a bit partial to the Intel, but I have both drive):
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820167121
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148529

If you want to spend a bit less, get one of these two drive:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148441
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820167120


For a traditional rotating-platter drive, any 7200rpm drive will be fine.    For the best performance, and a superb 5-year warranty,  I like the Western Digital Caviar Black series ... how much capacity you want is up to you, but virtually any modern drive will have far more than you "need".    You can get a 500GB unit for $84.99, or a 1TB unit for $104.99:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236345
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533


Another good choice is the new WD Red series drives -- they have a full 3 year warranty and excellent performance for a "green" (low power) drive.    I have 6 of them in my storage server and they've been outstanding.   A 2TB one is only $109.99:   http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822236343
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38765764
Wow what a great thread.  I started out with a case and looking for a little guidance so my 12 year old nephew and myself could build a PC.  We got some great advice and some good counterpoints.  This thread is a great example of how a technology community helps its members build skills, enjoy a hobby, and overcome a society where each days the wealth of information seems a little more daunting.  To be able to receive specific advice on my question was great and it deserves a round of recognition especially to garycase who was patient and provided detailed answers and links to all my subsequent questions.  Thanks !
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by:garycase
ID: 38765779
You're most welcome -- post a note when it's all done & running and let us know how well it performs :-)
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38765791
Will do..the processeor and motherboard arrived today early from Amazon !  Im ordering the Intel SSD and WD HDD tomorrow.  I'm reading up on the MB instructions (I'm weird like that-reading instructions that is) to see if I need to use Motherboard Standoffs for the mATX.  (ASUS P8Z77-M LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel /330R case).
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by:garycase
ID: 38765847
Yes, you absolutely use standoffs.    You need to be sure you have the ones installed that match the locations needed for the motherboard -- and NOT anywhere else (they can cause electrical shorts if installed incorrectly).

Also, be sure you are VERY "static sensitive" -- especially when handling the CPU, memory, and when installing the motherboard.    Ideally you should use an anti-static wrist strap;  but you can also just ground yourself well before handling the parts.    A static discharge can destroy the CPU !!     The most delicate part of putting this all together is installing the CPU and heatsink.    Then be sure you install the ATX cover plate on the case;  and then install the motherboard.    Once that's done, you're home free.   Connecting the internal case front panel wiring is delicate, but straightforward (and much less of a static concern).
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38791861
Received the Hard Drive today..I ended up going with the WD1002FAEX..Good deal on Amazon..
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38897852
Hi Garycase...we finally finished ! We had to delay it for a month or so due to scheduling.  The machine runs great and boots up pretty fast although I did notice since loading Norton it is a tad slower.

I posted a picture below prior to me closing the case...

Once concern the  SSI drive shows that 42 of the 111 GB of the SSI are used up..I have not loaded anything except Windows, Norton, and Chrome to date...I have installed the WD Caviar Black 2 TB drive to handle all my docs (pictures, spreadsheets, etc.).  I assume the reamaining 70 GB free on the SSI drive is large enough for MS Office 2010 and some other software...

Thanks again as we could not have done it without your assistance and patience.
IMAG0171.jpg
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by:garycase
ID: 38897890
Looks good -- modular PSU's really help with keeping the internal wiring "neat" :-)

The free space on your SSD is PLENTY for installing a bunch of applications.    Note that at least 16GB of the used space is simply for the paging file (with a relatively large amount of RAM, Windows will generally assign this on a 1:1 ratio unless you need more -- which is very unlikely).     I allocated 80GB for the OS partition on my wife's 240GB SSD, and with a LOT of programs installed (Office 2010, Photoshop, Dragon, several card-making programs, a bunch of games, a DVD player, several audio programs, I-Tunes, etc.)  there's still almost 30GB free.   Your OS drive has PLENTY of space -- especially since you're keeping the data on a different drive.

Norton does tend to be a resource "hog" -- that and HP print drivers both tend to slow down the boot process a bit.    [But with an SSD and an i5-3570k is should still be plenty fast !! ]    How long is the actual boot taking?  [From the time it actually starts to boot ... not counting the BIOS POST time.]
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by:terencino
ID: 38898418
Congratulations upobDaPlaya!
Couple of recommendations for your SSD:
1. Uninstall Norton and replace with Microsoft Security Essentials. Having used both and many other security products, I find MSE most consistent and trouble-free for home users. And quiet. And free.
2. Move your paging file to the HDD or delete entirely
3. Delete the hibernation file
4. Delete all the restore points except the most recent
5. Run Disk cleanup regularly, select all options, it does a good job
6. Reduce Recycle Bin size to 500MB or less.

One of my 80GB SSDs dual boots Windows 7 Pro 64 with Office 2010 & Windows 8 Pro 64 with Office 2013 Pro 64. I have done some extreme pruning so used space is down to about 16GB for each. Media, PSTs etc are on the HDD.

Run SpaceSniffer or other space manager, very useful for tracking down those hogs. As garycase said the HP print drivers and associated bloatware will choke your performance and disk space. A product I often use to track boot performance is Soluto - sign up for a free account there and let it do its thing.
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by:terencino
ID: 38898579
garycase had a good question: How long is the actual boot taking?  [From the time it actually starts to boot ... not counting the BIOS POST time.]

For me it is 36 seconds from after POST to when I can open a workbook in Excel. That is with an HP XW440 vintage 2007, Intel dual core 6600 CPU, 8GB RAM, Intel 120GB 330 SSD, Windows 8 Pro 64, Office 2013 64.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38898773
Actually when I wrote the post there must have been some type of update going on because when I booted several times today it is flying !  It is 13 seconds from the time I hit the start button until I see the first flash of "Windows Starting" and then 6 seconds until I see my desktop and I am ready to use the computer.

One odd thing when I was the computer previously would not completely boot-up.  It was stuck on Windows Start.  I manually had to shut down.  I restarted and selected recovery as my option.  It eventually said it could not recover and I lost all the drivers and windows updates I installed last night. I re-installed and all seems fine now.

I would like to use this PC as my main library for all my documents on my home network.  Now that I have 2 TB of storage via my WD Caviar Black Hard Drive it makes sense for this to be my main repository for documents.  I also have a laptop and 2 other desktops scattered thru-out the house on the home network.. What is your suggestion for a solution..
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by:garycase
ID: 38899161
Simply "share" a folder on the 2TB drive -- it can be your documents folder; or a dedicated folder for just the stuff you want to share if you don't want all of your documents shared.

The shares are easier to access from disparate OS's if you go to advanced sharing settings and turn off homegroups;  turn off password-protected sharing; and enable sharing with 40 & 56 bit encryption.
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38899610
Hi Garycase,

I turned off all home-group options (Network Discovery, Print/File Sharing, Public Folder Sharing, and Password Protected Sharing).  I then selected 40 and 56 bit encryption.  I went to the 2 TB drive and right-clicked and my options are Nobody, Homegroup, and Specific people..  Which would I select

Also, dumb question, but I assume if I do shut down my desktop that has the 2 TB drive, but I have not unplugged the desktop then the 2 tb drive will not be available to my home network even though it is connected to the router vie ethernet.  I rarely shut down anyway..
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by:garycase
ID: 38899632
Choose Specific People;  then click the Add button and select "Everyone".    Change the permissions for that to Read/Write.

Yes, your system has to be on (and NOT "sleeping") for the shares to be available.   I'd set the power options to turn off the display after a reasonable time(20-30 min), spin down the hard drives after an hour or so;  and just leave it on.    Or you can let it go to sleep, and put an icon on your other desktops to send a "magic packet" to wake the PC whenever you want to access it.   This is very easy to do ... but would require an action by the user [It wouldn't hurt anything to do it even if the PC was already on].
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by:upobDaPlaya
ID: 38899639
Perfect.  It asked me to select the discovery method..I chose private ?  Oops for some reason I do not see the 2 TB drive on any of the other computers  ?
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