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FEATURED Read Before Asking: Choosing an AMD motherboard for new overclockers

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juane414

Member
Joined
May 2, 2006
Location
Wisconsin
New to overclocking? Need help choosing a motherboard that will meet your needs? Have you been out of the overclocking game for a while and don't know where to start? This thread is for you!

Explanation for this thread:
It seems that there are a lot of people popping into the forums to ask what motherboard they should buy without doing any investigation of their own. Some forum members get irritated by this. Honestly, when people are just too lazy to do their homework and try to dump the decision making process off on OCF members, it is a little annoying. However, there are a lot of people out there who simply do not know how to choose a motherboard. Either they aren't familiar with helpful resources available on the internet, or they're just new to overclocking. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just don't know where to start. So, for those people who need help getting started, I'm writing this buyer's guide.

I am certainly not an expert on motherboards by any stretch of the imagination, so none of this information is original to me. Frankly, if you have highly technical questions about motherboards, this is the wrong thread for you. I'm writing this because I have worked through the process of choosing a new AMD motherboard. I know the right questions to ask and I know where to find the information that helps answer those questions. Hopefully, this thread will save OCF members the headache of answering the same question a thousand times.

How to choose a new AMD motherboard:
Choosing a new AMD motherboard is about knowing what questions to ask and where to find good information (Hint: red text are links and places to find information). I will try to help you with that.

Step one - Asking the right questions
Please answer the following questions for yourself. These are the sorts of questions that OCF members would ask you if you wanted help choosing a motherboard. Save everyone some time and answer these questions. They will help you to choose the right motherboard.

  1. What are you planning to do with your new computer?
    (a) Gaming?
    (b) Benchmarking?
    (c) Photo/Video editing?
    (d) General computing and productivity?​
  2. Are you planning on overclocking your new computer?
    (a) yes
    (b) no​
  3. If yes, how would you classify your overclocking goals?
    (a) Mild overclock - just for fun/mild performance boost
    (b) Typical overclock - as much performance as possible with affordable cooling solutions
    (c) Extreme overclock - I want to max it out with water/extreme cooling solutions.​
  4. How much are you planning on spending on this motherboard? I.e., what is your budget?
    (a) As little as possible for my needs
    (b) Money is not an issue
    (c) I have a specific budget of $____ for this motherboard.​
    *NOTE* If you need to ask a question in the forum, please provide this information so that we know how to help you!

Step two - Finding information to help you choose
  1. What your motherboard needs to have for what you plan on doing with it:

    (a) Gaming: Gamers typically need motherboards that can handle fast processors and powerful graphics cards. Usually this means getting a motherboard with the latest socket and more than one PCIe slot to accommodate multiple graphics cards. This means that you will ideally get a full ATX sized motherboard as opposed to a mATX (micro ATX) motherboard, since mATX motherboards usually have only one slot. You will also need to consider what type of graphics card you want. Higher powered graphics cards are typically very large and will require a bigger case (chassis) and a higher capacity power supply (more watts).
    Summary of what you need:
    - Full ATX motherboard (mATX only if you want a small and portable gaming PC)
    - The latest socket (currently AM3+ or FM2)
    - Support for high powered processors (currently 140w is max)
    - More than one PCIe slot (for SLI or Crossfire)
    - The latest PCIe technology for future graphics card upgrades (currently PCIe 2.0 for AMD).​

    (b) Benchmarking: Honestly, if you know that you want to use your new computer for benchmarking then you probably know what you're doing and shouldn't be reading this. If you need more information on benchmarking, head over to the benchmarking forums. In general, however, you want the best motherboard that you can afford for benchmarking so that you can test the latest and greatest hardware at high overclocks for the best results. Durability is also a huge factor when your maxing out your system and putting it through grueling tests. Durability costs $$.
    Summary of what you need:
    - The best you can afford!​

    (c) Photo/video editing: If you do a lot of media related work, then your motherboard needs are going to be similar to that of a gamer. One major difference is that you need to have as much RAM (system memory) as possible to handle software like Adobe Photoshop. This means that you should specifically look at the max RAM that motherboards can accommodate. Ideally, a motherboard with a max RAM capacity of 32gb would be best. However, you will also need a motherboard that handles high powered graphics and processors, but you might not need SLI or Crossfire (multiple graphics cards) depending on what you do.
    Summary of what you need:
    - Full ATX motherboard (possibly mATX, especially if not overclocking)
    - The latest socket (currently AM3+ or FM2)
    - Support for high powered processors (currently 140w is max)
    - More than one PCIe slot (only if you need SLI or Crossfire for your work)​

    (d) General computing and productivity: You don't need much for this, unless you plan on overclocking just for fun. You can get away with an mATX motherboard. In fact, that might be ideal if you want a smaller chassis to save space. You won't need the latest and greatest when it comes to processors and graphics. Any motherboard with one PCIe slot will do, and you don't need 125w processor support unless you plan on overclocking.
    Summary of what you need:
    - mATX (unless you really want a full ATX board)
    - Support for current or previous generation processors (AM3+ or FM2 are latest, but AM3 or FM1 will probably meet your needs as well)
    - Support for 95w processors (125w if you want to overclock or have the latest processor)
    *NOTE* All of the information you need regarding motherboard specifications (size, socket, CPU support, etc.) is available at retail sites and manufacturer sites.
    Asus motherboards
    Gigabyte motherboards
    ASRock motherboards
    Biostar motherboards
    MSI motherboards
    ECS motherboards
  2. What you need if you're planning on overclocking:
    **Skip this and go to section "3." if you're not overclocking**
    If you're going to overclock your computer then you need to give special consideration to your motherboards overclocking capabilities and durability. Not all motherboards have overclocking capabilities built into the bios (the motherboard firmware where you adjust settings), and not all motherboards with overclocking capabilities are built to withstand long term 24/7 overclocking. There are a few of places that you can go to find out if your motherboard has overclocking capabilities.

    First, you should go to retailers like Newegg, Tigerdirect, Fry's, Micro Center, NCIX, etc. and look for motherboards that meet your needs (explained above). Once you find a motherboard that meets your needs, see what the reviewers say. If your the board is capable of overclocking, reviewers will usually mention that.

    Second, you should go to the motherboard manufacturer's product page. Once you find a few motherboards that meet your needs, go to the manufacturer's website and look up the product. Asus, Gigabyte, ASRock, MSI, Biostar, Foxconn, ECS, etc. will have information about the motherboard's features that will help you.

    Third, and most importantly, you need to investigate the motherboard's durability. One place you should go is to Overclock.net. They have a very helpful database that is regularly updated. This database keeps track of the type of VRMs that popular motherboards are equipped with. VRMs regulate the power that is supplied to the processor. These are very important to overclocking. Motherboards with weak VRMs will not be able to stand up to the extra stress placed on them when you increase the power to your processor to overclock it. This database will tell you which motherboards are ideal for overclocking. Another key thing to look for is whether or not there are heatsinks on the VRM mosfets. The mosfets are transistors that are next to the CPU socket. If you look at a picture of the motherboard, you will be able to see metal heatsinks next to the CPU socket if they are there. Heatsinks help to keep the mosfets cool as they regulate power going to the CPU, which is essential for full-time overclocking. If a motherboard doesn't have heatsinks on the mosfets, you can always install heatsinks and additional fans to keep the mosfets cool. Additionally, you should find out how many phases the motherboard's VRM has. This information is available at the overclock.net database and, in general, more phases (6+1, 6+2, 8+1, etc.) are better. Also important for durability is the motherboard's CPU (processor) support. Some motherboards only support 95w CPUs. Obviously, if you want to overclock a 125w processor like the 8 core FX series CPU's, a 95w supported motherboard will not be compatible.

    Lastly, once you have it narrowed down to a few choices, do some internet searches for reviews on that particular motherboard. If the motherboard you're looking at is a good overclocker there is a good chance that a computer enthusiast has reviewed it. These reviews will help you to sort through the features of the motherboard, and whether or not it is capable of overclocking. Some websites to check for reviews include Tom's Hardware, Anandtech, Legitreviews, Tweaktown, Guru3d, HardOCP, Hardwaresecrets, and our very own Overclockers.com. It will also be helpful for you to check user reviews at Newegg.com or other retail sites.

    Summary of things to do when buying a motherboard for overclocking:
    - Look for motherboard models that have the features you need (socket, number of PCIe slots, max CPU support, etc.)
    - Check the manufacturer's website for overclocking features and specifications
    - Check enthusiast reviews and user reviews on the internet
    - Most importantly, check the quality of the motherboard's VRM (number of phases, heatsinks on mosfets, etc.)

  3. Determining how much you should spend:
    Just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. If you want to squeeze every last MHz out of your CPU then you should plan on buying a top tier motherboard. For AMD, this means you should expect to pay upwards of $150. If you just want a typical overclock that will be stable 24/7 then you will probably need to spend in the $100-$150 range. Occasionally, you can find a motherboard that is capable of mild overclocking for under $100. If you choose to spend under $100 you might need to invest in some better cooling for the VRM mosfets and you probably should not expect the motherboard to last for more than a few years. There are exceptions, of course, but most budget boards do not take to 24/7 overclocks very well.

Step three - Meeting your budget and making your purchase
Generally, motherboards that will be great overclockers will cost you a little more money, but there are some tricks for getting the best motherboard that you can afford. Here are just a few tips:
- Be patient. I know it's exciting to buy new computer parts, and it can be hard to wait. But most PC hardware retailers like Tigerdirect and Newegg run sales all the time, and prices are constantly fluctuation. Sometimes you can save $10, $20, or more by waiting a few days.
- Use search engines. There are a lot of websites that help you price shop. Google shopping is helpful because it shows current prices from many retailers locally and online.
- Sign up for newsletters. Most retailers send out newsletters than contain coupon codes and exclusive deals. Don't miss those! Sometimes the part you need shows up in the newsletter and isn't advertised on the main website.
- Get familiar with retailer websites. Most businesses are not seeking to lose money. This means that they sometimes make deals hard to find. For example, Newegg has combo deals that can often save you a lot of money if you buy two or more parts together. However, it's not super easy to find these combo deals. Newegg used to make them more visible, but now you have to scroll all the way down to "more" on the left side navigation list to find all the combos and other specials. Tigerdirect and other popular retailers bury some of their specials as well.
- Look for rebates and free shipping. Sometimes, free shipping and mail-in-rebates are all you need to save $15 and hit your budget. It takes a little more work on your part to send in the rebate, but every little bit helps.
- Check the Cyber Deals thread in our forums here. Many OCF members post links to great deals they find. This can be a helpful resource. Also, consider contributing to the Cyber Deals thread! The more people that share deals, the happier (and less poor) we'll all be!
- Consider buying used, open box, refurbished, etc. Sometimes buying used computer hardware does not pay off. I've personally lost money and experienced a lot of frustration by buying used parts. However, if you do it wisely it can pay off. Try not to buy used parts unless you trust the person you're buying from or the part has some sort of warranty. A great place to find deals on used parts is right here in the OCF classifieds section.

Additional suggestions for choosing a motherboard from OCF members:

- Check OCF member's signatures below their posts. This gives you an idea of what other people are using to overclock. Thanks FlailBoy!
- Check HWBot to see what motherboards are being used for benchmarking. Popular boards listed there are likely to be great overclockers. Thanks RGone!

Happy Overclocking!
 
Last edited:

ssjwizard

Has slightly less legible writing than Thideras
Joined
Mar 12, 2002
Thanks for taking the time to write this. We have had alot of people asking questions about AMD boards the last couple days. This should make explaining the whole thing a bit easier!

@Moderators I vote to stick this thread.
 
OP
juane414

juane414

Member
Joined
May 2, 2006
Location
Wisconsin
If anyone has some feedback or suggestions to improve the thread please let me know!
 
OP
juane414

juane414

Member
Joined
May 2, 2006
Location
Wisconsin
You say that the 'red text' is a link but many are n0t links. Might adjust that somehow.

Yea, the "links" to retail sites and review sites are not active because I wasn't sure if it violated any rules to link to sites like that. If there is no problem with it then I'll go ahead and make those links live.
 

RGone

Senior DFI Staff
Joined
Apr 20, 2004
Location
JAX, Mississauna
Retail sites likely no issue. The links to other review sites...welll not sure. Make those some color besides red and the then the red stuff would make good sense.
 
OP
juane414

juane414

Member
Joined
May 2, 2006
Location
Wisconsin
Updated with active links to manufacturer product pages and review sites. It this violates some rule I can remove the links. Just trying to be helpful!

I'm also considering adding a list of "approved" AMD motherboards like we have a list of approved PSU's in the power supplies and electronic devices section.
 

FlailBoy

Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2003
Truly excellent post. :clap:

I'd also like to add that once I narrowed down my choices, I looked at the sig rigs out here.

This is a new build for me. Many of us post specs/settings in our sigs. Really quite a bit of good information. Can tell you a lot about what a board can do. When I start overclocking on this motherboard, you'll see mine.
 
Last edited:

RGone

Senior DFI Staff
Joined
Apr 20, 2004
Location
JAX, Mississauna
Truly excellent post. :clap:

I'd also like to add that once I narrowed down my choices, I looked at the sig rigs out here.

This is a new build for me. Many of us post specs/settings in our sigs. Really quite a bit of good information. Can tell you a lot about what a board can do. When I start overclocking on this motherboard, you'll see mine.

What you say is probably the BEST thing to do when looking for a mobo.

I also go to HWBot and look at which motherboards are being used to make big-time entries there at HWBot. Most of those guys can run any board they want. If a board is heavily used. There is a 'reason'.

RGone...ster.
 
OP
juane414

juane414

Member
Joined
May 2, 2006
Location
Wisconsin
What you say is probably the BEST thing to do when looking for a mobo.

I also go to HWBot and look at which motherboards are being used to make big-time entries there at HWBot. Most of those guys can run any board they want. If a board is heavily used. There is a 'reason'.

RGone...ster.

Thanks for the suggestion RGone. I added a list at the bottom of my post for suggestions from other OCF members. Keep them coming!