Choosing a Motherboard
Before choosing your motherboard it’s important to consider what type of processor you want. This is because your CPU’s socket type will determine what kind of motherboards you can purchase. The latest sockets for 2011 are Intel’s 1155 for use with Intel’s second generation of Sandy Bridge processors as well as AMD’s new AM3+ socket type designed for use with AMD’s Bulldozer CPU with Zambezi cores. Intel’s 1366 socket motherboards are also still a viable option for some high-end builds.
Ram Capacity and Compatibility
If you’re building a new computer, then most likely you’ll want to use DDR3 ram. How much you need depends on what you plan to do with your computer. At this point in time 4GB is plenty for your office computer while gaming and graphic design computers may require 8-16GB. The capacity is listed in your motherboards specifications. If you can’t find your motherboard’s specification, then consider visiting the manufacturer’s website and using the model number to find all the information you need.
Remember to consider the size of case that you want to purchase with your motherboard. This is especially important if you’re considering a smaller micro or HTPC case.
SATA II or III?
SATA III is the newer and faster standard that can be used with your hard drive, solid state drive, and storage devices. Most newer motherboards come with both SATA II and SATA III. This is especially crucial for solid state drives. While SATA II can be used with a SATA III SSD it will slow down its read and write times considerably. See your motherboards specifications for additional details.
Expansion Slots and Ports
Unless you plan on using multiple hard drives, graphics cards, or other devices, then you probably are ok in this area. However, if you plan on using Crossfire or SLI for your multi-GPU setup, then be sure that you have the right amount of slots and ports for all of your enthusiast needs!
Trust Consumers, not Manufacturers
Plain and simple customer reviews are the best source for real motherboard information whether good or bad. Before purchasing your motherboard read what others have to say.
P67, H67, or Z68 Chipset?
If you’re going to purchase a 1155 socket motherboard, then you’ll need to know what type of chipset that you need. For your office computer an H67 chipset motherboard is fine. This chipset allows for integrated graphics but limits your ability to overclock your CPU/graphics card. If you need a dedicated graphics card, then you’ll want to go with P67 which allows for dedicated GPU support and CPU overclocking. The latest Intel chipset is the Z68 which combines the integrated graphics support of the H67 with the overclocking ability of the P67. It also has new features like Intel Smart Response Technology which when used with a dedicated solid state drive can significantly speed up you computer. If prices are similar, then go with the Z68.
Best New 1155 Z68 Motherboard
High-End: ASUS Maximus IV Extreme-Z, GIGABYTE G1.SNIPER2
Mid-Range: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO, GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3
Budget: BIOSTAR TZ68A+
Micro: GIGABYTE GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3
Also see our list of top motherboards according to popularity for a specification comparison chart.
Best New AM3+ Motherboard 2011
High-End: ASUS Crosshair V Formula AM3+
Mid-Range: GIGABYTE GA-990XA-UD3
Budget: ASRock 890GX PRO3
Micro: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-USB3
In the end choose a motherboard that is reliable, has the right specifications, and falls within your budget. For more information about motherboards specifically designed for gaming see our post on the best gaming motherboards.