Best Value PC Motherboards 2014 Review
Review and Compare the Top PC Motherboards of 2014
Sometimes it's difficult to find the right motherboard for your needs if you don't build computers all of the time. Many times there are good value motherboards available that give you the same options and features of motherboards twice their price.
In this post we'll look at the best value PC motherboards for Intel and AMD motherboards including my favorites for Intel's new Haswell processor.
Intel / AMD Processor Motherboard Compatibility
You probably already know that Intel and AMD's processors come with various socket types and that these socket types will only fit with your motherboard if the motherboard also has the appropriate socket type. If you've been out of the PC building world for a couple years, then here's a quick update on the latest Intel and AMD socket types, chipsets, and technology. If you're already up-to-date, then you can skip to my motherboard picks below.
Intel Processors and Motherboards:
Intel's second generation of i series processors, better known as Sandy Bridge, were released in 2011. Third generation Ivy Bridge was released in March of 2012 and fourth Generation Haswell was released in May of 2013. The second and third generation "i" series processors use the 1155 socket for standard processors while standard Haswell processors use the 1150 pin socket. Socket 2011 is for enthusiast-level Sandy and Ivy Bridge processors. (Ivy Bridge-e will not be released until late 2013).
While Ivy and Sandy Bridge processors are compatible with most motherboards with the 1155 socket type (the B65, Q67 are not compatible with Ivy) only certain chipsets are compatible with PCIe 3.0 and have native USB 3.0. These include the GEN 3 Sandy Bridge Z68 chipset motherboards along with all Ivy Bridge chipsets (B75, Q75, Q77, H77, Z75, and Z77). Intel's Smart Response technology, which allows for SSD caching, is only available on the Z68 chipset as well as Ivy Bridge Chipsets that end in "77".
AMD Processors and Motherboards
In October of 2011 AMD released the first series of its FX line code named Bulldozer. Bulldozer, Piledriver and other FX series processors use the AM3+ CPU socket type. AM3+ Motherboards with the corresponding socket type are not only compatible with FX, but also compatible with Phenom II, Athlon II, and the Sempron 100 Series.
What about AMD's APU?
AMDs APUs give you multi-core CPU and discrete-level GPU performance for a budget price. Unlike its standard processors AMD's Llano and Trinity (latest Piledriver architecture) core APU use two different sockets which are not compatible. Llano models have the FM1 socket while the Trinity APU have the FM2 socket.
Best Value 1150 Motherboards 2014
There are 6 main types of chipsets used in new Haswell compatible motherboards; Z87, H87, H81, Q87, Q85, and B85. The best way to look at them is by the letter in front of their designation. Z for performance or overclocking, Q for mainstream users, and B for business oriented motherboards.
For Power Users
A lot of the motherboard world is geared towards power users wishing to overclock. If you are a power user, then you'll want to go with the Z87 chipset. It's the one designed for tweaking features and probably the most popular overall because of it's all-inclusive features.
For Mainstream Users:
That being said if you're trying to build an inexpensive PC for work or even a gaming computer that you don't plan on tweaking, then going with an inexpensive Haswell 1150 chipset like a B85 or "H" series chipset motherboard may be a good idea. This will allow you to get additional value in your PC by not overspending on a component that will not limit mainstream performance.
A feature-packed motherboard that's pretty good at overclocking.
Best 1155 Socket Motherboard 2013?
Whether you're going to be purchasing a Sandy or Ivy Bridge processor I still recommend you go with a Z77 chipset motherboard as it gives you the most flexibility and keeps you with the latest technology. If you look for rebates or good deals, then you can generally get one for just about the same price as other chipsets. Below I've listed a few of the most popular z77 motherboards according to price along with their specifications.
One motherboard not on this list but that I've used in the last few months is the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a budget performance board and aren't really looking to break any overclocking records. Similarly the Gigabyte UD5H is a good overclocking 1155 board for the money. While I tend to stick with Asus and Gigabyte for most builds, ASRock has also put out a few good boards in the last year. The Extreme 4, 6, and Professional are among my favorites for gamers.
This board gives you a lot of value by being the best overclocker under $200.
Best Socket 2011 Intel Compatible Motherboard?
Most of you looking to purchase an enthusiast level CPU aren't looking for a budget motherboard; however, if you pair the reasonably priced i7-3820 along with the Gigabyte X79 GA-X79-UP4, then you get a great performance motherboard CPU combo for right around $400. For Overclocking I like the Asus Rampage models and for durability go with the Sabertooth because of their TUF series line of components.
Again, while I generally recommend Asus or Gigabyte motherboards, ASRock has put out an impressive product this year and the Extreme 9 is also definitely worth a look in the overclocking category. The Extreme 11 also received the AnandTech Editor's Choice Bronze Award.
Best AMD AM3+ Motherboard 2014?
Performance AM3+ Motherboard CPU Combo: If you're looking for a good performance or value motherboard CPU combo, then I highly recommend the new Piledriver FX 8350 along with either the Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7 or the ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z.
Budget AM3+ Motherboard Combo: If you're planning on building a performance PC on a budget for the end of 2014, then I highly recommend the Vishera core AMD FX 6300 along with either the GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 or the ASUS M5A88-M AM3+ if you're looking for a good Micro ATX motherboard.
Value AMD AM3+ Motherboards
Best Trinity Socket FM2 Motherboard 2013?
Whether you're looking to build a budget HTPC or gaming rig, AMD has now made it so that you have to consider their Trinity APU. Based on the new Piledriver architecture, which is simply another iteration of Bulldozer, the Trinity APUs give you a decent CPU and graphics for a budget price. If graphics are what's most important in your value PC, then this really makes a lot of sense.
High Performance FM2 Motherboard Trinity APU Combo:
For this combo I highly recommend you go with the AMD A10-5800K Trinity 3.8GHz (4.2GHz Turbo) processor. While the Llano APUs are now deeply discounted and would work well for a basic HTPC, the Trinity gives you the advantage of the better Piledriver microarchitecture along with AMD's HD 7000 series of graphics. The A10-5800k in particular couples its CPU with AMD Radeon HD 7660D integrated graphics. Put it with the GA-F2A85X-UP4 for a solid motherboard performance APU combo for just $250.
Budget FM2 Motherboard Trinity APU Combo:
For a super inexpensive option pair the new AMD A4-5300 APU along with the MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 for a great budget HTPC option under $115.
Best AMD Socket FM2 Motherboard for the Money
Best Llano Socket FM1 Motherboard 2014?
For me the socket FM1 APUs are now more about HTPCs than gaming rigs. If you're building a gaming PC, then I highly recommend you pony up the extra cash to go with the Trinity FM2 APUs. That being said if you're building an HTPC and trying to save as much money as possible then going with something like the AMD A4-3400 makes a lot of sense. Pair it with a budget board under $50 for a decent combo under $150.
What Manufacturer do Your Prefer for Motherboards?
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