Technology

Which Intel Skylake LGA1151 Motherboard Is The Best Fit For You?

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Most people are content to walk into a big box electronics store and buy a pre-built, fully loaded, ready to use computer. There is also a smaller part of the population that would rather build their own computer by researching and purchasing the best products that fit within their budget. The key to building the best computer for your money is to match your needs to a product. With seemingly countless variations of options, one can easily overbuy on one component, leaving less money for others.

Today we’ll be exploring the foundation of a computer system, the motherboard. The motherboard is the circuit board that everything else plugs into. Specifically, we’ll be talking about LGA1151 motherboards that support the latest generation of Intel’s microprocessors code named Skylake released in August of 2015. One can spend anywhere between $50 and several hundred on a motherboard. They key is to know your needs, and to find a motherboard that matches those needs without paying for features you will never use.

The first decision you should make is what size motherboard you need. There are two choices that are the most common:

Full ATX (Advanced Technology eXtended)

This size motherboard will fit into a mid-sized or full-sized computer case. If you have a micro-atx case, this type of product will not fit. It typically has 4-8 expansion slots and allows for more features and allows for more devices to be plugged into it (hard drives, usb devices, etc).

Micro-ATX

This is a slightly smaller mother board that will fit into any sized computer case, including a micro-atx case. It has fewer expansion slots and connectors for external devices.

Board Size Analysis:

If you plan to plug in a lot of expansion cards or external devices you may need a full sized ATX board. If you only plan to connect the standard storage device and maybe a wireless network card or graphics adapter the Micro-ATX type board, which typically costs less, may be a wise selection.

For each size, motherboards come with varying chipsets that drive the functionality of the board. As you move from lower to higher end boards, you gain functionality, options, and cost. Here are the chipsets available for the LGA1151 motherboard family and some of the key features that most users would care about:

H110:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 2
  • Maximum Memory : 32GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 6/4
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 4
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): 1 slot at x16
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 6 lanes at PCIE 2.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed only (may be disabled)

B150:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 4
  • Maximum Memory : 64GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 6/6
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 6
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): 1 slot at x16
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 8 lanes at PCIE 3.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed only (may be disabled)

Q150:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 4
  • Maximum Memory : 64GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 6/8
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 6
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): 1 slot at x16
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 10 lanes at PCIE 3.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed only (may be disabled)

H170:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 4
  • Maximum Memory : 64GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 6/8
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 6
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): 1 slot at x16
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 16 lanes at PCIE 2.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed only (may be disabled)

Q170:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 4
  • Maximum Memory : 64GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 4/10
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 6
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): Either 1 x16; 2 x8 OR 1 x8 and 2 x4
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 20 lanes at PCIE 2.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed only (may be disabled)

Z170:

  • Maximum Memory DIMM Slots: 64
  • Maximum Memory : 64GB
  • Maximum USB Ports (2.0/3.0): 4/10
  • Maximum SATA Ports : 4
  • Processor PCI Express Configuration (PCIE 3.0): Either 1 x16; 2 x8 OR 1 x8 and 2 x4
  • PCH (Platform controller hub) Configuration: 20 lanes at PCIE 2.0
  • Overclocking: Base clock speed and CPU multiplier

Analysis:

The H110 is really low end. The expansion slots on the motherboard are only PCIE 2.0, which means they will not perform well. It also has a limited maximum memory capacity. These boards will come cheap, but will only satisfy the most basic of configurations. With the B150, however, you get expanded memory capability, and PCIE 3.0 slots on the motherboard. This will give you great value for your money. The Q150, H170 and Q170 are, in my opinion, rather uninteresting. You get incremental increases in number of USB 3.0 ports and more expansion capability on the motherboard through more PCIE lanes. But if you’re going to go above the B150, it’s likely to get the overclocking ability on the Z170. Overclocking allows users to make the processor run faster than the manufacturer has set it to run. If you do it right, you can squeeze more speed and performance out of your computer. If you do it wrong, you’ll smoke your electronics.

Summary:

If you’re looking to build a budget computer, while the H110 may be the cheapest, it may be worth just a few extra bucks to move to the B150 which would provide the options needed for most computer users. But, if you’re a gamer or an enthusiast that likes to tinker, the extra cost of the Z170 will be necessary to give you the tools you need.

Once you’ve identified the size and chipset that best fits your needs, you can go to your favorite electronics store or website and look for motherboards of that type confident that you are buying the right foundation for your computer.

Have you ever built your own computer? What kind of options do you look for in your motherboard?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

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Brock Kernin

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