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What makes a motherboard good?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
So what makes one motherboard better than another, how do you pick a motherboard? I understand a bit, I'd like to think I'm quite knowledgeable, but I'm a bit confused on this and I'm not familiar with intel, and my question pertains to intel chips running so cool.

From what I understand, a motherboard is:

1. The holes - Socket, PCIE slots, Form factor, being the biggest ones, USB 3.0 and sata 3.0 being big new ones, but for the most part as long as you got the right socket, every custom build motherboard will have a PCI-E x16 slot (and most people just go with single GPU) and you can get adaptors for not enough USB or anything. Basically, it's socket, form factor (which usually is non-issue if you have a midtower+ case)...

2. Chipset - generally, chipsets are about onboard graphics or not, if you can have a discrete GPU or not, SLI/Crossfire support, and overclockability. Any custom build motherboard is going to support a discrete GPU though, so basically the issue here is overclocking, and maybe SLI. But even at the cheapest price level, you can find a motherboard that supports overclocking.

So 'holes' and 'chipset' really don't affect the price, and are pretty straightforward, and basically, aren't going to be deciding factors.

3. VRM - a good VRM that doesn't blow, but also doesn't heat up hotter than it can withstand (as quality is combination of ability to handle heat, and ability to dissipate the heat) so that there isn't too much voltage ripple or fluctuation to the CPU, especially during high voltages set by an overclock.

As far as I can tell, it seems like VRM is the biggest deciding factor to what motherboard to buy. And to a very small degree, things like USB 3.0, Sata 3.0, SLI support.

But Intel chips run so cool - so when people say VRMs dont matter on intel, is that bull****, or is that true? I've heard some people say you shouldn't pick an intel board on VRM because they all have decent VRMs and the chips run so cool, but Intel boards blow out just like anything else... although it isn't hot phenoms.

And does what motherboard you get affect your overclock? This is not just about Intel, but AMD and AM3 as well. Provided your VRM doesn't get too hot/can't handle heat, which can be solved by additional cooling and CPU temps will be an issue before VRM temps will be on a 4+1 decent phase with active+passive cooling, how does a motherboard affect your overclockability at all? As long as the VRM temps stay reasonable, shouldnt all motherboards overclock the same, provided they have the right chipset and all?

I mean I'm running a 3+1 phase on the cheapest, $30 motherboard I could get for my athlon/phenom am3 system. I sawed up my stock heatsink, thermal taped it on my mosfets, stuck a fan on top of it and 2 temperature diodes, and it stays well below 60*C (biostar said the limit for 24/7 is 90*C, 100*C is what they are rated for). I mean I don't understand why dont you always just buy the cheapest socket+chipset+PCIx16 slot board, and then put on VRM cooling as necessary (although I guess with intel that isnt necessary at all?).

Thanks. I know it's a bit long, but i'm not asking a simple "what motherboard to buy" question here, I'm asking what makes motherboards different, especially for Intel when the one thing that matters, the VRM, doesnt seem to matter.

TLDR: From what I understand, the deciding factor in a motherboard is the VRM, but intel runs cool. So why do you choose one motherboard over another (given that most people run single GPU, and the 'right' chipset can be found for cheap anyways).
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post #2 of 45
Here are some of the things I look for when on the lookout for a new board.

1. Voltage test points.
2. Onboard LED debugging system
3. Fat power phases and lots of them
4. Pci-e spacing must be plentiful
5. Good support.
6. Plenty of SATA 6.0
7. Dual Bios chips.
post #3 of 45
Regarding VRMs I own an Asrock extreme4 Z77 which I didn't know at the time of purchase uses D-PAK Mosfets, which run hot and are considered very low end and almost all motherboards you buy will have better/newer ones unless you go cheaper than $100. I was concerned because I am running a high overclock of 4.9ghz daily I asked sin0822 if he felt my board was going to give out running 1.416v through it as a daily overclock. He replied "I think your chip will die first". That tells me unless you are planning to go into an LN2 overclocking competition you needn't really buy into all of the VRM hype as they should all serve your needs pretty much the same for ivy. Look for layout and features and brand reliability instead.
Edited by chronicfx - 11/29/12 at 1:21pm
post #4 of 45
1. Socket does nothing but specifies whether the CPU will fit. It doesn't describe anything else.

2. Chipset is the one responsible for whether the CPU will work, and what are the standard set of features that all motherboards with the given chipset will have. In other words, number of USB ports, SATA and etc.

2.1 Any additional feature like SLI/Crossfire, PCI-E lane division, audio codec, ethernet controller, and etc. depends on the particular model and raises the cost.

3. VRM is an other factor that raises the cost.

Most of the cost comes from mosfets - their quality and quantity.
Quote:
But Intel chips run so cool

Temperatures aren't directly related to power consumption. There are mosfets that can output ~12A and there are ones that can do 60A.
Quote:
because they all have decent VRMs and the chips run so cool

Not true. There are some very crappy boards.
Quote:
And does what motherboard you get affect your overclock?

Yes, for two reasons. Most motherboards with bad VRM have OC functions limited, so you can't pass certain frequency. Even if OC isn't blocked, VRM might have problems doing it.
Quote:
Provided your VRM doesn't get too hot/can't handle heat, which can be solved by additional cooling

You can't increase maximum current of VRM by adding additional cooling.
Quote:
CPU temps will be an issue before VRM temps will be on a 4+1 decent phase with active+passive cooling, how does a motherboard affect your overclockability at all?

VRM temps might be an issue before CPU gets to thermal limit on air/water. Phase count only decreases ripple. You can still overclock well with 4 phase board that has very nice mosfets. Some boards like Maximus V Formula use 4 phase PWM doubled to 8 with PowerPAK mosfets. Phase count isn't everything.
Quote:
As long as the VRM temps stay reasonable, shouldnt all motherboards overclock the same

Lower temps don't increase maximum current as mentioned earlier. You don't even want to reach maximum current output on some mosfets since you will need a cooler size of CPU radiator to cool it (~70W TDP). And that's very inefficient.
Quote:
I mean I don't understand why dont you always just buy the cheapest socket+chipset+PCIx16 slot board, and then put on VRM cooling as necessary (although I guess with intel that isnt necessary at all?).
1. OC features might be locked.
2. The cheapest Z77 board is going to be like $20-30 cheaper than a decent OC board like Z77-D3H. Saving 30$ won't worth the hassle, and you will spend more trying to cool the VRM on the cheap board anyway if you decide to.
Edited by DeXel - 11/29/12 at 1:36pm
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post #5 of 45
I'm pretty much with king who dat, I tend to watch for

1. Voltage read points.
2. Debug LED
3. Onboard power/reset
4. Pci-e spacing/sli capability
5. Bios options
6. Fan headers
7. Dual Bios chips.
8. Strong PWM

As chronicfx pointed out, almost all boards will run an average daily overclock. For extreme cooling & overclocking stronger VRMs never hurt, but people still do amazing things with boards you wouldn't expect to see run great clocks.
A lot of board price can be features, if you have to have thunderbolt, be prepared to pay an extra chunk of change. 4-way sli on 1155 doesn't come cheap, etc.
    
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post #6 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by King Who Dat View Post

Here are some of the things I look for when on the lookout for a new board.

1. Voltage test points.
2. Onboard LED debugging system
3. Fat power phases and lots of them
4. Pci-e spacing must be plentiful
5. Good support.
6. Plenty of SATA 6.0
7. Dual Bios chips.

What is a voltage test point?, what is LED debugging system...

Fat power phases.... better quality VRM, which is what I talked about, which apparently, to some, doesnt matter because intel runs so cheap...

PCI-E spacing is only important if your running SLI/Crossfire/Multi-GPU. Now I know many people do this, but most people just run a single GPU system and dont need more than a single pcix16. Even then, saying you need an SLI capable motherboard just means you pay a slight mark-up, it still doesnt narrow down the choices to one motherboard that's better than another at the price point.

What do you mean 'good support'?

SATA 6.0... well, most people aren't running more than 1-2 hard drives.

This isn't really directed towards people who are maxing out hard drives, GPUs, slots, et cetera. I'm talking about a 'general' build, I'm not talking about someone who needs the best of the best. There's a million motherboards $60-200. Which one do you choose for your single GPU, single HDD system?

Why do you need dual bios chips what is dual bios chips.
Quote:
Look for layout and features and brand reliability instead.

So basically buy the cheapest motherboard that works? You can find reliable brand names at even the cheapest price level, I mean, foxconn seems to be the only brand I see in low price motherboards that I haven't heard too much about, but there's Asrock (which is just Asus), MSi, Biostar, all at budget level.
Quote:
2. Chipset is the one responsible for whether the CPU will work, and what are the standard set of features that all motherboards with the given chipset will have. In other words, number of USB ports, SATA and etc.

Yes, I know. In other words, chipset is not a deciding factor in getting a motherboard. Get a chipset that has overclock capability (or SLI if necessary), good to go. You can find both Z68 and H67 or whatever at very low prices, it's not like your paying $30+ for one chipset over another.
Quote:
Temperatures aren't directly related to power consumption. There are mosfets that can output ~12A and there are ones that can do 60A.

The TDP of Intel is quite low. It doesn't seem like VRM quality is an issue with Intel? I mean, to me it seems VRM is the THE biggest factor in choosing a motherboard, but I've had people tell me otherwise. I'm basically trying to see if VRM is the most important factor still with a motherboard, or if I'm the one that's wrong when I say you should be careful in what motherboard you buy based on it's VRM quality.
Quote:
Yes, for two reasons. Most motherboards with bad VRM have OC functions limited, so you can't pass certain frequency. Even if OC isn't blocked, VRM might have problems doing it.

Yes... I know, please. I know what a VRM is, and that if the VRM is bad and can't handle heat/heats up too much, it causes problems as the ripple increases and thus the CPU is no longer getting the right voltage it needs in each cycle, and because the voltage being demanded is partially lost and not fully supplied, and thus extra heat generation and waste for nothing.

But given the relatively low TDP of Intel chips, is VRM quality a big issue with Intel motherboards, or is it not? Isn't VRM the biggest factor in buying a motherboard (i mean obviously socket, chipset, slots matter, but you arne't paying a premium on price for that, whereas you will for a higher quality phase).
Quote:
You can't increase maximum current of VRM by adding additional cooling.

No, but you prevent the VRM's from damaging the motherboard, themselves, a blow out, and prevent any issues with the CPU not getting quality vcore. What I'm getting at is why not just buy a cheap motherboard, invest in aftermarket VRM cooling (see my signature - im running 3+1 power phase on an overclocked 955 and im not blowing out my motherboard because of my heatsink and cooling on my VRM, as I know even without the fan I'd be hitting over 90*C and my motherboard would blow out, but because of the heatsink and fan, they stay below 60*C on prime95).
Quote:
1. OC features might be locked.
2. The cheapest Z77 board is going to be like $20-30 cheaper than a decent OC board like Z77-D3H. Saving 30$ won't worth the hassle, and you will spend more trying to cool the VRM on the cheap board anyway if you decide to.

Yes, I know, but I addressed this in my post:

1. An overclockable motherboard can be had for quite cheap, you can find z86/h76 for under $80. Given that this really doesn't charge a price premium, why are some people (who are running not many HDD and single GPU) buying anything other than the cheapest motherboard that overclocks?

2. But due to the low TDP of Intel chips, does it matter?
Quote:
As chronicfx pointed out, almost all boards will run an average daily overclock. For extreme cooling & overclocking stronger VRMs never hurt, but people still do amazing things with boards you wouldn't expect to see run great clocks.
A lot of board price can be features, if you have to have thunderbolt, be prepared to pay an extra chunk of change. 4-way sli on 1155 doesn't come cheap, etc.

Yes, I know that some of these features cost a lot and there's no avoiding them.

But still. There's hundreds of motherboards out there. Which one do you choose, and why.

If I were to choose an AM3 motherboard, for example, I'd look at the cheapest price range, about $40-60, and compare the maybe 20-30 motherboards available to choose from, and simply pick the one with the best VRM (which will 100% of the time be overclockable, and have a pciex16 slot). If I needed SLI and all those fancy features, there's still many motherboards to choose from, so which $200 motherboard do you buy?

Im asking how do you choose a motherboard, basically. Seems to me, you should just buy the cheapest overclockable, pciex16 motherboard with the right socket, with the best VRM quality in it's price range, and if anything, you might pay more money because (besides needing a feature like SLI, multi gpu, etc) you want a higher quality VRM in case of extreme overclocks and running a high TDP processor (ie phenom x6 or i7),
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post #7 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
On November 20 2012 03:33 skyR wrote:
Quote:
On November 20 2012 01:27 Belial88 wrote:
Quote:
Yes, go through lists and lists of rather inconsequential information and try to parse difficult to understand information. Again: power phases are only a problem with AMD systems. Again, a stock Phenom II X6 draws the same amount of power as an overclocked Ivy Bridge processor during load.

You have to do that with most equipment. RAM, different models of the same GPU, HDD, lots of PC components that have 50 other ones selling at the same price and you have to choose which one is the best buy. If your going to pick a $100 motherboard with SLI and 6 USB slots and whatever else features that you need, atx, lga 1155, etc, pick the one with the better VRM.

I'm not disagreeing with what you are saying. But the VRM IS the motherboard. I'm not saying you need to pay more for a motherboard, I'm saying that there's going to be a dozen motherboards at $75.28 with your form factor/pci-x slots/socket and pick the one with the better vrm. And you probably shouldnt buy the cheapest motherboard, ie micro-atx 4+1 nikos.
Quote:
Even then that's not really true. Even at the low ends, it overclocks worse for the exact same reasons. Needs more voltage to get same clocks and all that. That's why the lowest end MSI boards are kind of ****ty but they still work perfectly fine unless you get unlucky and the board blows.

that's the VRM quality. Lower quality VRM means inconsistent power supply, more ripple, less than specified voltage reaching the chip. And it's not necessarily the chip requires more vcore, it's that the voltage isn't reaching the chip when it would on another motherboard (semantics). Heat also causes degradation of performance.

Getting a higher quality VRM not only makes sure no blow-out occurs (granted, rare on intel and modern systems), it helps with overclocking. A moderate overclock might not need it, but a high end overclock will.

For all i care, buy the cheapest motherboard. Just of the many motherboards at the cheapest price, pick the best VRM. I'm not saying anything controversial here, and I'm not trying to be alarmist in any way. But a motherboard is not the colors it's painted, the pci-x slots it has, how many ram slots it has. It's the VRM, and to a lesser extent the chipset.

If someone wants to be an uneducated buyer that's perfectly fine. Have fun blowing a ton of unnecessary money, or getting a sub-optimal motherboard for your price point. I'm just trying to educate.

No. It seems that you are severely out of touch with the world and yes, you are being the biggest alarmist ever.

You caution against buying MSI boards even though there has not been a single wide spread incident of their Intel boards exploding. The last incident was with Gigabyte's X79 boards.

Literally no one is going to go through dozens of spreadsheets to find out how the VRMs on two different boards compare. Not even overclocking enthusiasts ******* do this.

You keep bringing up VRMs being the most important factor for buying motherboards even though this is far from ******* true. Maybe one in a million consumers will have VRMs on their list. Everyone else cares much more on **** that actually makes a difiference and are significantly easier to understand (ports, warranty / post-sale support, chipsets, BIOS, features, colour). Yes, I just said that colour is more important.

If a moderate overclock doesn't need higher quality VRMs than why the **** bring it up at all? No one is going to be doing a high-end overclock on a bottom of the barrel piece of **** board because the BIOS is crippled and it isn't smart either.

Sub optimal? I don't know if this is a joke or just complete ignorance. Sub optimal would have more to do with everything else that you deemed to be less important than VRMs.

Am I right in my sentiment here, or was I wrong?
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post #8 of 45
Quality VRMs are more important to some than otners, I do some extreme cooling & overclocking, & although a new gen chip at stock does have pretty low power requirements those requirements can skyrocket as the overclock gets higher. There is a reason you never see anyone running 6Ghz + on an extreme 4, etc.
Not just getting to the high frequency, more phases/better quality phases can help with cleaner power delivery. Overclocking to high clocks is one thing, getting stable enough to load up the cpu at high clocks is important too ( a lot of this doesn't really apply to daily 24/7 kinda clocks).

That 77w TDP is cooling required at stock, the power goes up with voltage & overclock. A 990x with 130w TDP can suck back 400w with enough voltage & clocked high.

I don't look that close at phase count as long as they are good phases, the list I had is what I look for as a bencher.
1. Voltage read points.- comes in handy to see how much voltage is really being used, software is frequently wrong.
2. Debug LED - if you ever get into memory overclocking, it's a must have, handy for all troubleshooting
3. Onboard power/reset - I don't use cases, better than jumpstarting with a screwdriver
4. Pci-e spacing/sli capability - i usually have quite a few cards to bench, & room for a fat pot is nice.
5. Bios options - has to be able to give enough vcore, good memory overclocking options, ln2/memory profiles like with asus can be handy
6. Fan headers - some boards just don't have enough. even without a case, can't have too much airflow.
7. Dual Bios chips. - corrupt a bios or mess up OCing bad enough, you will wish you had a board with dual bios
8. Strong PWM - doesn't necessarily mean a lot of phases, but has to be able to hit the high clocks.
    
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post #9 of 45
Quote:
1. An overclockable motherboard can be had for quite cheap, you can find z86/h76 for under $80. Given that this really doesn't charge a price premium, why are some people (who are running not many HDD and single GPU) buying anything other than the cheapest motherboard that overclocks?
It's hard to find a good Z68, P67 board (H doesn't support overclock) under $80. If you find one, get one. Quality LGA1155 OC boards start roughly around $90 where you can find anything with crappy D-PAK or good PowerPAK/LF-PAK mosfets. Choosing between two, the choice is obvious.
Quote:
2. But due to the low TDP of Intel chips, does it matter?
By overclocking CPU you can double power consumption. At certain point, it will matter since some VRMs can't deliver that much. Obviously there is overkill, like UP7 that can deliver about 2000W to CPU. So what's the point of some of these boards? Nothing for a regular user, but for LN2 the it allows to push more voltage, and keep the VRM very cool and efficient.

I don't know how to relate current in amperes that mosfets deliver to power consumption of CPUs in watts. If somebody clarifies this, you can calculate theoretical maximum wattage that certain VRM can deliver.
Quote:
1. An overclockable motherboard can be had for quite cheap, you can find z86/h76 for under $80. Given that this really doesn't charge a price premium, why are some people (who are running not many HDD and single GPU) buying anything other than the cheapest motherboard that overclocks?

Because people either need additional features on those boards, or they are just dumb and don't know what they need, so they overpay for "cool" stuff that they will never use. In my case I overpayed roughly $60 at the time over D3H for voltage reading points, power/reset buttons, debug LED, a headphone amp, and a better heatsink, which now I know isn't necessary.

Quote:
Im asking how do you choose a motherboard, basically. Seems to me, you should just buy the cheapest overclockable, pciex16 motherboard with the right socket, with the best VRM quality in it's price range, and if anything, you might pay more money because (besides needing a feature like SLI, multi gpu, etc) you want a higher quality VRM in case of extreme overclocks and running a high TDP processor (ie phenom x6 or i7),

Pretty much, but also avoid the boards with extremely stripped VRM if you can have a good one for $5 more.

One thing to mention is that even though some boards have very nice components, BIOS can be a big bummer.
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post #10 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by King Who Dat View Post

Here are some of the things I look for when on the lookout for a new board.
1. Voltage test points.
2. Onboard LED debugging system
3. Fat power phases and lots of them
4. Pci-e spacing must be plentiful
5. Good support.
6. Plenty of SATA 6.0
7. Dual Bios chips.

So basically ...



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