Are More Expensive Motherboards Better Motherboards? - [H]

Discussion in 'Motherboards' started by Kyle_Bennett, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. Kyle_Bennett

    Kyle_Bennett El Chingón Staff Member

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    Are More Expensive Motherboards Better Motherboards?

    In this editorial Dan Dobrowolski digs into his lifelong experience in the tech sector as well as his more than 10 years of reviewing motherboards for HardOCP and tries to answer a very simple question. While the question is very simple, the depth of answers may surprise you. We have a list of nine things to consider.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  2. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    In my personal experience there is a sweet spot in the middle somewhere.

    The most expensive motherboards tend to have lots of extra features that I'll never use like RGB LED connectors, colorful light up heatsinks, ridiculous colorful paint jobs, hard shell covers, fancy on board sound (I use external DAC's anyway) etc. etc

    Many of those cool looking fancy heatsinks on the motherboards aren't very functional anyway, and some of them actually block heat escaping.

    On the flip side, some of the absolute cheapest motherboards, like the $39 Biostar board I bought for an HTPC once tend to have stability problems, poorly thought out expansion slots, and missing key features (like sleep states)

    Personally I tend to go for "workstation" type boards. They typically have none of the nonsense, all of the features, and are more likely to have intel NIC's than other models.

    My ideal motherboard would have as few on board features as possible, instead giving me as much expansion as possible to allow me to use the components I see fit. I'd buy a motherboard with no on board sound and no on board NIC's if I could, then I'd add my own server adapters and my own discrete sound card. I'm fine with USB on there though.
     
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  3. thejokker

    thejokker Gawd

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    30 years experience building computers; 25 years as an IT professional. There are many companies that make good motherboards but I now only buy Asus. Even their less expensive boards will be reliable. It is always better to spend too much than too little. Cheap stuff will break and you will have to spend more to replace it.
     
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  4. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I used to feel this way, until I had to go through their RMA process once, which wasn't the most delightful experience.

    I go back and forth between Asus, MSI and Gigabyte, but usually wind up with Asus as they more reliably provide the type of "workstation" boards I am looking for without the Rice's up color schemes, ridiculous non-functional heatsinks and frag harder lights.
     
  5. Spartacus

    Spartacus [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have a similar background as yours....

    ASUS is a good brand, I also like MSI. I like MSI's middle of the road boards without any of the extra stuff. Lights, wifi, and plastic covers.... :rolleyes:
    Lol.... I remember the days that mobos didn't even have any disk controllers.

    I don't buy the bargain basement models from any brand. Just asking for trouble.
    And I wish all brands would do a better job of releasing BIOS updates.

    .
     
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  6. cptnjarhead

    cptnjarhead Crossfit Fast Walk Champion Runnerup

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    Ive had trouble with Asus procucts in the past, so i stay away from them. Gigabyte has been good to me. I like most look at mid-range boards depending on the chipset, but if money was not an issue?... yeah i would probably go with the all the bells and whistles..
     
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  7. viivo

    viivo Gawd

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    Some features are mind boggling and make you wonder if the designers were just trying to fill a bullet list. For example, my last board, a Gigabyte z170 Gaming 7, has both Intel Gbe and Killer e2400 onboard, but makes it clear in all documentation that teaming is not supported. Did they just have some spare chips lying around?
     
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  8. andrewaggb

    andrewaggb Limp Gawd

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    For what it's worth I've had the least problems with Asus boards as well. I've bought many boards for projects, video recorders, kids, etc and generally the asus ones have just worked. I also got to the point I'd only by kingston value ram because it just worked and never gave me grief. I've relaxed that in recent years and it's been ok but I'm still incredibly nervous anytime I buy ram that not's not kingston or hyper-x, lol.

    Most motherboards I buy are on the less expensive side (or cheapest possible) and they've worked fine 5+ years. But without a doubt the Z87-WS https://www.asus.com/us/Commercial-Servers-Workstations/Z87WS/ was the best motherboard I've ever purchased. It was quality top to bottom, stable, fast, etc.

    I'm currently using a gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming Wifi https://www.gigabyte.com/us/Motherboard/Z370-AORUS-GAMING-WIFI-rev-10#kf and it's ok but it's a noticeable step down from the Z87 in quality. And I've blue screened some... which could be the fall creators update, memory, or mixing graphics cards or various things but the Z87-WS was rock solid for years.

    I'd actually love to see a survey of hardocp members for different builds over the years including the motherboard, cpu, memory, graphic(s) cards, OS and how many crashes/bluescreens/kernel panics etc per year.
     
  9. horrorshow

    horrorshow 2[H]4U

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    My last 2 boards have been Gigabyte. Before that, I'll admit I had an old ECS board (bundled with an Athlon XP 1900+ from Frys).

    This P55 board in my current setup has been humming along since late 2009!
     
  10. horrorshow

    horrorshow 2[H]4U

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    With my current setup (see sig), I have had less than a half dozen BSODs in 8+ years of service.

    Every time, it's been my fault. (most recently was from a beta driver)
     
  11. M76

    M76 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Almost every time I decided to put a little more money into things I regretted it. As it often turned out that the cheaper solution would've been better, or just as good. And this is not limited to MBs. Of course I'm not saying that you have to buy the cheapest solution, but that there is a price point in everything which is not worth crossing, and it's lower than you'd imagine. I should know I still make the mistake of overstepping it from time to time.
     
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  12. Aireoth

    Aireoth Gawd

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    Having built my own PC's since 2001, there are two things I regret.

    1. Not checking [H] reviews prior to purchasing components.
    2. Picking the cheaper product.

    The few times I actually grab halo products I do so knowingly, and yes they are not worth it, but also they are.
     
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  13. IdiotInCharge

    IdiotInCharge Not the Idiot YOU are Looking for

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    I get what both of you are saying-

    And I'll throw out an example of 'topping off' from my sig: the 8700k was absolutely worth it as I use the system for gaming; any cheaper would have meant fewer threads or lower clocks/IPC or both, and any more expensive the same, save for the HEDT option that would have significantly increased cost.

    The 1080 Ti is a wild one- I got it for base MSRP, but it has an AIO that usually pushes the MSRP up another $100, right before miners ruined the party. I've still never spent so much on a GPU and probably won't again, but this deal was too hard to pass up!

    Beyond those two essential components for gaming, I don't worry: don't need the fastest RAM, the largest/fastest SSD, the biggest power supply, the top-end board with bells and whistles I'll never use, etc- at best, I'd go for a high-end monitor, but monitors are such a moving target and always represent a compromise that I'm rarely moved to purchase.

    And if I wasn't gaming? Lol.
     
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  14. M76

    M76 [H]ardness Supreme

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    I regret buying a C2D E8500 over an E8400
    I regret buying the I7-930 over the cheaper I7-920
    I regret buying the X99 PRO I currently use, because it's no better than any "budget" board I used in my previous builds like the X79 Extreme4, or the X58A-UD3R before that which were both one of the cheapest available HEDT boards at the time. I also regret not buying 32GB of ram, when it was $200.
     
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  15. oldmanbal

    oldmanbal [H]ard|Gawd

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    I'd like to throw in that less expensive gigabyte and asus boards can typically punch way over their weight class and regularly deliver the best value for a reliable product in the mid range of most people's price considerations.

    Buying a $400 plus board comes down to if you need certain features that only that chipset supports, or if spending that kind of money on a motherboard has no impact on you financially. I stopped pissing money away on motherboards over $300 when they stopped improving computer chips almost a decade ago now.
     
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  16. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I've actually had a pretty good track record with Halo or near-Halo products., but only when bought right at launch.

    I'm still using my X79 and Sandy-E i7-3930k in my main desktop I bought for what I thought was a ridiculous amount of money ($600, $400 for the motherboard), at launch in late 2011. I had buyers remorse right after buying it due to having spent $1k on a motherboard and CPU (which is funny considering some of the pricing since then) but if I knew then what I know now, that I would still be using the system in 2018 and it would be performing comparatively well overclocked compared to newer systems, I wouldn't have had the buyers remorse.

    Same with my 2013 Kepler Titan. the $1k pricetag gave me buyers remorse in 2013, but if I had known then that I would not have to replace it after my usual 6 month to a year timeframe for GPU's, but rather would keep it in my system until August 2015, followed by serving in my stepsons system for 1080p use still today in 2018, I would have felt a lot less badly about it.

    I spent $1,200 on my Pascal Titan X. and at the current rate I'm probably going to get close to two years out of it as well, so I'm not disappointed.

    My bigger regrets have to do with when I tried to right-size my purchases, when I didn't build in enough of a buffer, when I felt I was being smart and frugal when I bought it. These things rarely lasted very long, pissed me off along the way, and required me to replace them much sooner than was worth it.
     
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  17. Neapolitan6th

    Neapolitan6th Limp Gawd

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    Now I'm curious which brand has thinner PCBs on their higher end offerings. I understand low end offerings being that way, but high end (high priced) ones too?
     
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  18. Johnny Quag

    Johnny Quag n00bie

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    Asrock has a rep for thin PCBs through their entire line. I have used their boards without issue, though. The last one was an extreme 4 for an amd phenom, and it looked like a hand flattened washboard. 7 years and still runs.
     
  19. Neapolitan6th

    Neapolitan6th Limp Gawd

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    I feared it would be them though I mainly get their ITX boards. I would think their ITX offering would have to use thicker PCBs just for trace layouts though. (Especially their X299 ITX) At least they are generally a good value.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
  20. MrDeaf

    MrDeaf Limp Gawd

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    That's a great writeup.
    I was aware of the number of power phases mobos had, but I wasn't aware that some of them had thinner PCBs.

    I always thought that thinner PCBs, flexing and cracking solder joints was strictly a portable device problem. Dry solder joints was a major problem on many laptops, about 10 yrs ago.
     
  21. funkydmunky

    funkydmunky [H]ard|Gawd

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    I have gone Gigabyte for the last bunch of years. Why? Cause I haven't been unlucky with them yet ;)
    I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to hardware. I would rather have the hard working truck then the sports car. I hate LED's, side windows, and gimmicky HS with logo's all over. But in this day and age you have to compromise.
    Nice article. I wish there was a way to test out the RMA/customer service of each of the major companies (NAmerica,Europe/Asia) to see who really offers solid service.
    Call me jaded, but I automatically assume these days, it is all horrible. I always hold my breath on every first boot of a new build. The thought of an RMA run around gives me chills.
     
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  22. harmattan

    harmattan 2[H]4U

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    This is pretty right on. I've found from experience there's a point where cost, features, design and quality intersect on the line chart -- that's the board you normally want.

    Also agree that, in most cases, the most expensive boards do nothing to improve stability over mid-tier products, the extra features go unused, and extra features means more to go wrong.
     
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  23. BitMaster

    BitMaster Limp Gawd

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    I have always bought the big ones, always Asus, WorkStation/DeLuxe or what ever they were called. Over the past years, quality and ripeness seems to have made place for LED and gimmicks of questionable value.

    When my last 3 boards of the 500€ class badly failed 2016/2017 with the Z170 class I said STOP BUYING LED's with a PCB attached. I gave all those bricked boards back and for now I pick medium tier boards. Less features but hey, basically the same 16+4 lanes, same PCH, there is no fundamental difference in functionality, all have Intel NICs( all 1 Gbit still ).

    For more LEDs, a QConnector and 4 Sata cables exrtra I am not going to pay twice anyore if the outcome is a overloaded board with limitations on the trading hand ( remember 16+4 ! ). I see no point for a Desktop PC.

    If I need to build a true WS, yes, then I pick a 400-500€ board, but only because Asus WS boards have excellent RMA service, same day shipment, no questions asked. For that service I pay extra. Not for LED's and 3D printing kindergarden stuff
     
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  24. dgingeri

    dgingeri 2[H]4U

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    I'm in the same boat. Been building my own systems since 1994, and been an IT pro since 1997, and I buy nothing but Asus too. I have a had a couple problematic boards, though. Their Z97 WS board was absolutely horrible. I got 2 replacement boards with the exact same issue as my initial board, and even with another purchased replacement. (Using the exact same CPU and memory, I had perfect operation on a Maximus VII Hero, and using two other CPUs and 3 other memory kits on each of these boards, I had the exact same issue, so I know it is the board, and likely a design flaw. The fact that I waited over a month for each replacement was even more annoying, considering they advertised a quick turnaround for that board specifically.) However, I have still had a whole lot more negative experiences with other manufacturers and more good experiences with Asus. (At least Asus knows what they're doing with the BIOS, which can certainly NOT be said of most other manufacturers.) I've owned about 2 dozen Asus boards and only had 2 issues, while I've owned 6 Gigabyte boards and had issues with all 6. (I can even name all 6.) I have had similar experiences with MSI recently. (3 straight good boards.) They've become a pretty good brand, but it is kind of hard to justify moving away from Asus.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
  25. dgingeri

    dgingeri 2[H]4U

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    I am curious about one thing, though.

    From the article: "One manufacturer in particular tends to use thinner PCBs even on their higher end motherboards. It's a cost cutting measure they choose to employ in order to beat out the other top tier manufacturers on price. It's not hard to figure out who I'm talking about, but it doesn't matter beyond citing an example."

    Which manufacturer is this? I haven't come across this. I'd rather not stumble across it by accident.
     
  26. Biostud

    Biostud n00bie

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    As with everything you buy, you have to find out what your needs are.

    I never buy the most expensive, because I don't need all the extra stuff and don't push my computer to the limits. I don't buy the cheapest because they are often missing features that might come in handy in the future. I have never owned an asus board going back to P75 days, but none of the other boards I have owned has caused any problems. (Except when my watercooling leaked, but that is hardly the fault of the mb producer.)
     
  27. Mordred

    Mordred n00bie

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    I would love to see high end quality without added bullshit. Like only what the chipset offers but everything around it at top notch quality for overclocking etc.

    Sadly when you want good stuff you are almost forced to also buy additional usb/sata controllers (which is disable anymay), rgb lighting and all kinds of other bullshit, The closest to what i want seems to be asrock extreme 4
     
  28. dook43

    dook43 2[H]4U

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    The Titans are never worth it for gaming. You'd have been just as well off with the 780tis and 1080tis, respectively.
     
  29. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    Yeah, but they came out several months after the Titans. In the case of the Pascal Titan I got 8 months of great performance that I wouldn't have gotten if I had waited for the 1080ti.

    Saving 8 months is well worth the price IMHO.


    GPU's are not long term investments. Their usefulness goes *poof* in no time. 8 months is a goddamned eternity in the product life cycle of a video card, and paying $700 extra today to get performance that otherwise won't be available for 8 months is well worth the price.

    Besides, break that cost down to a daily or weekly average and its practically less than I spend on coffee...
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
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  30. Burticus

    Burticus 2[H]4U

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    Asus, Gigabyte, Asrock on the low end. Not a huge MSI fan. Biostar and ECS can eat a bag of dicks. I used to be a big Abit fan, but they went down the tubes.
     
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  31. IKV1476

    IKV1476 Lurker

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    Good Article as always.

    My current MB was bought for longevity over features but back then you kinda needed to get both to get one or the other. Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD5 still going strong and good enough with the 1090T in it.
    My MB before that was a Asrock (AMD 3800 dual core cpu) that had agp and pci-e slots so I could migrate the video card from the previous system and still upgrade to something better later. I ran that Asrock MB 24/7 for almost 5 years with a 25% overclock under water cooling and it was as solid on the last day I used it as when it was new.

    Having been reading about PC hardware for years now I have come to see that even lower end in features motherboards now have a good quality to them. And that makes me happy, as now I can get a quality board without buying into features I don't want or need.
    This article sums up my reading experience about motherboards perfectly. Now I can just point people to it instead of trying to explain things to them.
     
  32. thecold

    thecold [H]Lite

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    The amount of half ready stuff is annoying. The support length by all the manufacturers is on the same level, really crappy. When boards are first released it takes a couple of bios revisions before the things are straitened out. Some are only sort of straitened out.

    As a result of those experiences I try to stay with the middle of the road boards and buy my boards after several bios revisions.
     
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  33. ecktt

    ecktt Limp Gawd

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    I've built PCs out of the cheap crap PC-Chips board and the most overpriced Asus board money could buy for the past 26 years. It has also been my experience that. you get little to nothing for the extra money spent. In fact, some of those extra bells and whistles are just plain ole broke. Remeber the Abit BP6 with that extra IDE control which BOSDed or the first wave of Gigabyte boards with extra USB 3.0 that random disappeared. Let us not forget board that simply bundle a crap load of feature just to cranks up the price. I'm looking at all the board with 10 SATA ports or 5 PCIE 16 slots which only have 4 lanes. And now this RGB craze...steups. If people argument is that premium board have better PCBs, MOSFET cooling, etc, why can we get boards like that without the crap loaded on it? You can't even buy a board without sound anymore. Sub 150 dollar board is where all the action is at and MSI has understood this for a long time. FYI, those cheap boards work just fine as long use a good PSU.
     
  34. flenser

    flenser Limp Gawd

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    I've tried to find that "sweet spot" for the 24 years I've been building PCs. Every time I upgrade, I try to find a mobo that not only has the features I want, but which will be robust and long-lasting. Sometimes in the past that has been a bit of a waste, as new technology has driven a complete system upgrade before the hardware has failed. On the other hand, I've had 2-3 upgrade cycles where the hardware has simply kept on running and I've either had no reason to upgrade, or I haven't been able to due to not enough money.

    I have a socket 939 mobo with a dual core athlon cpu that runs my network file server. It runs my server software ok, and because I took care to buy quality components it's still running 12 years after purchase. My current desktop is an old socket 775 mobo, upgraded to one of intel's first consumer-level quad core cpus. It has an ASUS P5Q PRO mobo, and it's still running strong. HOWEVER, I run it 24/7 because sometimes when I reboot, it doesn't wake up properly so I suspect that while it's run far longer than expected, it has some impending hardware failure starting to crop up.

    The point being that trying to buy "quality" components has occasionally been a bit of a waste of money but more often has meant that I buy replacement hardware when I want to, not because something fails.
     
  35. Jayy88

    Jayy88 [H]Lite

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    It's been shootout between Manufacture....After seeing a lot stuff...I do think some of the older stuff a handful of years back had a little bit better quality went into it even some of the lesser boards did. Now they have been it looks like been kinda all over the place making them cheaper and not as good at cooling components and whatever else cost saving measures. You get what you Pay for I guess.

    This one has definitely reminded me of Ultimate mobo Z270 and high end mobo features see a board you know a lot of thought went into that thing etc, That was scattered all over the place too though that chipset quite a few good boards.
     
  36. DeathFromBelow

    DeathFromBelow [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Comparing manufacturers is a crapshoot. I spent a bunch of money on an Asus X79 Deluxe v2. Almost swore off Asus when it died (starting with the wifi and then component-by-component things started not working) but then I ended up going with a Prime X370 Pro for my current Ryzen build and it's worked out fine. Meanwhile I also have a ~$100 socket AM3+ Gigabyte 990FX UD3 that's been running an FX-8320 @ 4.5+ GHz for years.

    Now I just buy whatever looks the least like a flaming gay transformer. From gold plated everything to RGB everything... Chinese aesthetics are practically a crime against humanity.
     
  37. NeonFlak

    NeonFlak Limp Gawd

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    I always want to love MSI (I don't know why), but every MSI board I've ever owned has had to be RMA'd at least once (including my most recent AM4 board). MSI does stand behind their products, so that's a plus.
    I think AsRock is a gem in terms of balance between price and build quality and usually end up with one of their boards in my pcs, even if I didn't start with them first.
     
  38. magoo

    magoo [H]ardForum Junkie

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    It's sad that the GPU market is so fucked up, we have to spend time talking about which motherboard to buy...........and why.

    The article is well thought out and brings up the salient points about motherboard selection.

    Obviously, the board is very, if not the most important component of the build.

    Generally however, once you have purchased and built a few systems, you tend to stay with the same brand if your systems are stable and perform well over time. I get used to the BIOS layout and frankly don't want to learn a new one.


    I hate ASUS RMA system (have had to use it for GPU returns), but their ROG boards have never failed me. I generally buy the cheapest of the ROG (Hero) brand, but the damn things are pretty much bullet proof.

    Why change?
     
  39. Jayy88

    Jayy88 [H]Lite

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    Oh Iv'e had to RMA every board currently...Except the Asrock I don't know how it's still alive.
     
  40. VIC-20

    VIC-20 Gawd

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    Expensive used to be the only way to go if you didn't want something constantly flaky or short lived. But cheap and stable matx boards with rock solid H and B series chipsets, mainstream performance models with P or Z chipsets (MSI SLi Plus/A Series ASUS for example), and so on have changed all that. I still love the feel of exceptional build quality in high end boards, but I end up upgrading too soon to get the best investment out of the expensive boards and the bottom bar is now set higher than ever.

    Not that it really matters to me atm. I spend more time messing with old PCs and vintage audio gear lately, as crypto has taken the fun out of TOTL PC gaming.