Motherboards these days offer a lot of features, so some of the things you’ll need to look for is what kind of integrated options it offers. You’ll want a motherboard that not only supports the current components you are buying - but will allow breathing room if you upgrade down the road.
You’ll want to look at the form factor - usually ATX (bigger) or MicroATX (smaller). The bigger boards usually offer more features. Here’s some to look for...
- USB Ports - Today just about every device is USB, and while a hub lets you expand up to 127 of these, it’s nice to have them built in. USB 3.0 are the fastest, though not many devices support this yet.
- Onboard Audio - You can save a few bucks by getting a board with a built-in sound card. Look for one that has 5.1 or 7.1 support and allows you to do digital out.
- PCI Express 16x Support - to run the fastest video cards you’ll need at least one of these slots, if not more for future upgrade or SLI support.
- SATA - All modern motherboards support SATA (Serial ATA), see if the board supports RAID as well and make sure it has at least 6 connectors for lots of hard drives if you go that route. SATA 3.0 is the latest and fastest specification, check if it supports that as well.
- Advanced Features - these include the ability to overclock in the bios and tweak settings and voltages to your liking to get the maximum potential out of your hardware.
We chose Gigabyte’s board based on solid reviews all around and for good brand reputation. The board uses twice the amount of copper as “traditional” motherboards to help keep temperatures down. It has 2 PCI-Express 16X slots, 8 Serial ATA 2.0 slots, 2 Serial ATA 3.0 slots, Gigabit Ethernet Support and onboard 7.1 channel audio. It also sports 12 USB ports - 10 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0.
This is a socket 1366 board which will support our Intel i7-950 just fine. It also supports triple channel memory, which we’ll talk about in the memory section of this article.
Lower End - GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H57 ($129) [Available at NewEgg]
Higher End - ASUS Rampage III Extreme 3 Way SLI, Dolby Digital Sound, Advanced Overclocking Options ($339) [Available at NewEgg]