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What's the most compatible and stable board that has room for upgrade?

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NewbieOneKenobi

Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Location
Warsaw/Poland
TL;DR: Not a drama queen, battle-ready heavy-duty no-nonsense mobo that is obedient and does not have surprising quirky features, and the manufacture is very conscientious about support. Intel vs AMD would be based on which CPU architecture & RAM interface is better for my work needs (multiple file mills milling at the same time, moderate average intensity with potential for high intensity in rare random peak situations that will nonetheless be bound to happen) as long as it doesn't impair my gaming too much. Focus on compatibility, durability, cable management, room for large CPU coolers and long GFX cards.

LONGER VERSION:

I need:

Compatibility to not worry about adding or removing RAM especially but also other components. This includes especially adding RAM that wasn't even out at the time the manufacturer was designing the RAM-mobo compatibility/support list. Ideally I would have a mobo that supported any DDR4 RAM without bitching about it, especially high-end fancy gaming RAM with funny heatsinks that costs a fortune. This probably also requires a manufacturer that's really conscientious about providing support, not just a couple of BIOS updates for a year or two and then a middle finger like Asus with P5Q-E. Default settings should be capable of working with all sorts of normal hardware in normal use at spec values.

Stability and durability to be very unlikely to die on me without a warning and especially kill other equipment, like a hard drive needed for work or an expensive GFX card. Capacitors need to be able to survive 24/7 operation with serious loads during a hot summer, also 4-5 years after purchasing the mobo. Ideally the board would have very sturdy power circuitry, NB, SB, mosfets and all that jazz, which I understand comes at a price, but I would feel more comfortable specifically buying it as a design/specification feature that the manufacturer charges money for and stakes its own reputation on (along with risk of lawsuits). Preferably with the ability to mount aftermarket heatsinks if necessary, and a fan, on such components, especially for northbridge (if Intel).

No-nonsense OC. Absolutely no unwanted OC, especially none that I wouldn't be able to switch off. No other quirky features, especially no features that are hard to disable and/or identify/understand. And preferably not too many settings to have to think about.

Smart placement of RAM, NB, SB, mosfets, power circuitry etc., especially for cooling purposes. I need these parts to not be dependent on the CPU cooler for cooling, to not obstruct the airflow, to not prevent me from using large tower heatsinks, and to not require me to use shorter graphics cards. Ideally, aftermarket heatsinks would be possible, but I've already mentioned this. RAM shouldn't restrict GFX card length or block/restrict airflow for the CPU cooler.

Suitability for a wide range of CPU coolers. Can't be designed for box, horizontal or orb coolers, but ideally wouldn't require a tower cooler either. There needs to be enough room for huge heatsinks that start low and go up high.

Good integrated LAN card with cable socket. I'd rather not have limited bandwidth because of something when my ISP upgrades the network, which it often does.

Room for upgrade, especially CPU. I understand the board won't be coming with DDR5, SATA4 or PCIE4, but I would prefer not to be limited by connectors or buses in the future, as far as possible, especially if it simply involves putting a couple more bucks in the mobo. The same refers to the CPU socket; I probably won't be buying an expensive CPU, but I'd appreciate being able to replace it with some really powerful processors when they become cheaper and/or when new processors come out that are compatible with the same socket. I am open to recommendations of less than newest sockets, though, if they make much more sense financially. BUT:

No unproven and expensive absolute newest tech, please. Don't want to be a beta tester for untested technology or pay the marketing premium for new stuff. I need proven tech and also a manufacturer that's conscientious about providing support, known for a good RMA record etc. This probably rules out Asus and Gigabyte.

Mobo absolutely needs to be compatible with low-rotation fans (lots of connectors too). I'll be using low-rotation fans wherever possible. I need the mobo to not cry murder when I use 800 rpm on an overclocked CPU. Rotation control needs to be based on temperature reads only, no silly preconceptions about rpm. Ideally, fan control should be able to entirely shut down fans that aren't necessary at any given time.

Mobo shouldn't requre a floppy drive/have BIOS issues when there's no floppy drive in the system. I know this is hard to know and I wouldn't ask you to check it for me (I'll be following up and doing deep research on the recommendations anyway), but if you do know that the mobo has some such issues, then please mention them in your recommendation.

Any sophisticated power supply features need to work in Europe and in old buildings. In other words, the mobo shouldn't be a drama queen about European power plugs (low-voltage directive and whatever) or bad power grids in old buildings. Especially no shutdowns, BIOS resets, refusals to boot etc. because of such typical power problems. Warning yes (very welcome), hard block nope. I need to be able to override any such settings. UPS support (if there is such a thing for mobos) would be a bonus. Protection from electricity problems would be great (voltage fluctuations, surges, sudden outages, e.g. when fuses go out in the apartment).

PCIE slot for discrete soundcard, even with a 3-slot GFX card. I have a discrete x-fi titanium, which I'll be using for as long as it remains better than onboard soundcards (please let me know if the mobo already has a better soundcard onboard). I often end up using 3-slot GFX cards (perhaps even 4-slot).

No interference with GFX card length. I might end up using one that's longer than 30 cm. Can't have RAM there or NB or SB, anything tall.

Smart placement of CPU-section power plug and other plugs to facilitate cable management.

Typical usage (this probably affects Intel vs AMD choice): Work and gaming, 16/24/7 with many all-nighters.

Work: Heavy-duty text editing, sometimes of very large files in bilingual layouts, with very large bilingual memory files attached (I'm translator). Autosaving the translated document every 5 minutes, updating the memory files constantly on the fly, as well as constantly checking for similarities between the translated file and the translations saved in the memory. I would welcome the ability to continue to work normally (including the autosaving) when Windows or something else is downloading its updates or when scans are run by Windows or anti-virus software. It would be great if I could also have a permanent kind of auto-backup solution frequently backing up my work directories, preferably without slowing me down too much. Ideally this would mean not even typing lag. Definitely nothing that could cause the system to stop responding due to the load pile.

In some situations I could have up to (at the same time): a very large file opened in a bilingual layout (e.g. 500-page manual or corporate document with a complicated layout, pictures etc.), with a huge memory attached for constant scanning. Perhaps another such project opened but not actively worked on. In the background Windows does its updating, COMODO does its scanning, Steam and/or a game may be patching, sometimes there's a defrag or something else like that going on, and also an autosave or backup, and I can have like 5 Chrome windows with 10 tabs in each, searching online databases, googling for helpful sources etc. (some of which are large PDF files served by slow servers). And I would love to be doing all this without experiencing a slowdown, not even typing lag, and definitely without crashing the system with the processes.

I don't do rendering, movies or bitcoins or anything else of the sort.

Of other important things, MS Office 2013 is very resource-hungry and works much more slowly than LibreOffice. It works too slowly on my e8600 with 8 GB DDR2/800 RAM, and produces typing lag in moderate-sized documents. I don't know how this affects the Intel vs AMD choice, but I wouldn't be surprised if it mattered. My guess is that singlecore performance will matter a lot because of this.

OS is Windows, as my software won't work under Linux.

I would ideally choose my CPU on the basis of this, but also taking some account of:

Gaming: CPU-intense strategies that aren't specifically optimized for multicore (or even dual core), so the CPU would need to know how to step in and divide the workload on its own. Such strategies also often involve a lot of data files for constant checks of a million variables. Also RPGs (which I tend to play for like 10+ hours per session) and car racers. Usually not other genres, although some of the RPGs are close to normal FPS. Often multiplayer. I'm really serious about ladder when I do play Starcraft 2 or something else like that, which is part of the reason why I need stability etc. to avoid crashes or disconnects and ideally also lag spikes etc.

A CPU and/or RAM recommendation (DDR4 for RAM) would be welcome while at it, though I'm focusing on the mobo right now. If I spend a lot of money on the mobo, I'll need to get a budget CPU, but I don't really mind upgrading it later.

Cost: Preferably below $300 unless there are special reasons to exceed this budget, in which case preferably not over $400. Please consider CPU cost too.

If you recommend an Intel board, please propose an AMD alternative if you can feel confident recommending one, and vice versa. This is largely because if I go for an AMD GFX card (choosing one right now), I'll probably want an AMD CPU with it as well.

If you recommend a hard-to-find manufacturer/board please try to recommend a more mainstream alternative too.

If this affects RAM choice because of Intel vs AMD differences, please let me know which RAM parameters I should focus on.
 

EarthDog

Gulper Nozzle Co-Owner
Joined
Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
Wow...you are stuck in the minutia. LOL!

Honestly man, just about ANY board will be fine for you TL: DR needs...some are actually impossible to predict/abide by really. I can't even tear apart that post one by one to address it all.... wow.

What is your budget and other uses for the PC? Do you have an OS, monitor, and peripherals already?

Sounds like, since you don't seem to want the latest and greatest (though you are not beta testing it at this point), would be to go Z97 with a 4790K or X99 with a 5820K/5930K.

This is largely because if I go for an AMD GFX card (choosing one right now), I'll probably want an AMD CPU with it as well.
There is no reason for this as there are zero benefits of running AMD with AMD.

EDIT: The board really doesn't limit your upgrade path... its the chipset (Z97/X99 etc).

EDIT: I will try later when I have more time to fill in details... but you are really looking waaay too deep for little reason here. :)
 
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OP
N

NewbieOneKenobi

Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Location
Warsaw/Poland
Wow...you are stuck in the minutia. LOL!

Honestly man, just about ANY board will be fine for you TL: DR needs...some are actually impossible to predict/abide by really. I can't even tear apart that post one by one to address it all.... wow.

It may all sound pretty generic, but I definitely don't want just any board. I'm looking for something that stands out for reliability, stability, good support etc. and has zero quirky features. Stuff like improved capacitors, alloys, better heatsinks on stuff etc.

What is your budget

$300 for mobo, would prefer $200, though. About a thousand for a whole computer, theoretically, but I'm focusing on the mobo right now to start from something.

and other uses for the PC?

For work: heavy-duty text editing with multiple large files plus some multitasking, which I need to run smoothly. For gaming: strategies, RPGs, car racers, not like these matter a lot, except maybe the large CPU/RAM back-and-forth with the quantity of variables processed by certain strategies.

Do you have an OS

No. Will probably get a box version of Windows 7 to avoid the hassle with an OEM licence.

monitor, and peripherals already?

Yes. And PSU too.

Probably will have an SSD drive (Samsung EVO 500GB for ~$180), a new GFX card and a nice case (for my current computer initially) by the time I end up choosing a mobo.

Basically will just need a mobo ($200–300), CPU (best performance for money under $300), RAM (8 GB of some good DDR4) and OS, everything else will already be there.

Sounds like, since you don't seem to want the latest and greatest (though you are not beta testing it at this point),

Let's just say no experimental features, nothing that isn't tried and true.

would be to go Z97 with a 4790K or X99 with a 5820K/5930K.

Aight.

There is no reason for this as there are zero benefits of running AMD with AMD.

Thanks, wasn't sure, as I'd seen some recommendations suggesting that an AMD to go with an AMD.

EDIT: The board really doesn't limit your upgrade path... its the chipset (Z97/X99 etc).

I was also thinking about connectors, busses etc. But apart from DDR4 and PCIE3, I don't think there's anything else in particular to pay attention to right now. Just wouldn't like to miss anything if there is something.
 

EarthDog

Gulper Nozzle Co-Owner
Joined
Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
Minutia.

Truth be told. I would try to look past your aversion to the latest chipset and just go with that. Things just simply work on Z170. I have had very few problems on any of the boards I reviewed (see front page). With that budget, I would grab something like the Giga Z170 Gaming 5, or MSI Z170 Gaming M5 and call it a day. Plenty of connectivity for SATA and USB including 3.1 Gen2). It has fast M.2 slots, etc... seems like it is all that you would need.

but I'm focusing on the mobo right now to start from something.
I would strongly suggest that you keep your build to one thread. Seeing several threads on one build tends to confuse more than it does help...
 
OP
N

NewbieOneKenobi

Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2006
Location
Warsaw/Poland
I've narrowed things down on the Intel side on my own. The used market isn't offering any bargains, and the prices of NIB Haswell, Bradwell, Refresh Bridge etc. and their respective mobos aren't going down much. This means I pretty much have to go Skylake, and I'm not really interested in any chipset other than Z170, due to OC restrictions and in any case not enough difference in the price to justify the purchase of the lower model. For my own reasons I don't want to get an MSI board, which leaves me with just a couple of models from Asus, Gigabyte and, perhaps, maybe, Asrock.

Incidentally, all of them have that PCI-E short slot above the GPU which I wanted. All of them also seem to have electrical protections and all that jazz, and some have extra durable components. So basically my long list above is no longer needed.

However, it's still a bit difficult for me to properly compare all the boards. The main differences seem to be:

– better or worse secondary VGA slot (PCIE 3.0 in any case, but modes vary)
– 2- vs 3-way Crossfire/SLI (doesn't matter much; I don't really expect to go 3-way)
– PCI 3.1 or only 3.0

But the price can vary significantly, even +50%.

Here are the models I'm considering:

Asus Z170-P, priced at PLN 489:
– only the primary VGA slot has x16 mode; secondary is x4
– overvoltage & overcurrent protection, some kind of filter for CPU power supply, RAM protection, LAN protection
– no USB 3.0
– supports a bit faster RAM than Z170-A but just one step

Asus Z170-A, priced at PLN 612
– same protections
– two equal VGA slots, but filling both drops mode from x16 to x8 anyway
– beefier LAN card with some protections and turbo mode, it's supposed to reduce CPU load
– just two USB 3.1 ports (A and C)
– OC optimizations with easy options (automated mutual scaling of voltages, frequencies etc., I guess)
– BIOS protections, CPU parameter recall
– LED diagnostics to tell you which device is causing problems

Asus Z170 PRO GAMING, priced at PLN 636
– two equal VGA slots, but filling both drops mode from x16 to x8 anyway; third at x4
– same beefy LAN card
– some kind of GBU boost feature
– similar protections but renamed
– LED diagnostics to tell you which device is causing problems
– otherwise kinda the same as the Z170-A, but I can't really identify which of the A'a options it's missing

Asrock Z170 Extreme 4 (six hundred something)
– 10-phase CPU power supply
– fastest RAM support
– has USB 3.1
– x16, x8/x8, x8/x8/x4 for 1, 2, 3 cards respectively
– platinum capacitors, gold-plated CPU-socket pins (I think), supposedly beefier heatsink (aluminium alloy whatever), gold-plated VGA slot
– high-density-glass-fabric PCB
– supports NVMe SSD as boot disks (dunno if the other boards do)
– apparently not as much electrical protection as the other boards

GIGABYTE GA-Z170-HD3P at PLN 487

– better RAM support than the similarly priced Asus, but still it's little difference
– it does have USB 3.1 (2x)
– some kind of 'ultra durable' feature, but it's clumsily explained and seems to be linked simply to the innate capabilities of Skylake processors
– beefed-up LAN
– gold-plated CPU pins
– will support ECC RAM but in non-ECC mode
– second VGA slot has reduced speed (x4)
– gold-plated CPU socket

GA-Z170X-GAMING 3 Z170 at PLN 621

– some kinda fancy USB 3.1 controller
– beefier 'Killer' LAN
– metal shielding for VGA
– seems to have more M.2 slots than ASUS (well, at least 2... for RAID too)
– gold-plated CPU socket
– same deal with ECC RAM
– 8x/8x if you install 2 VGAs

Asus seems to offer better electrical protection, though Gigabyte's cheaper model (not the gaming one) has USB 3.1. Therefore, I can't really tell if it's worth paying for the more expensive gaming-branded Asus or Gigabyte. I kinda don't feel like paying +30% for a slightly faster VGA slot, where I would first of all need to replace my PSU before adding a second card of the type I already have (and rather than buying a pair different ones, I'll probably be getting a single card when the time comes to upgrade).

So does the GA-Z170-HD3P look like a good choice?
 
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bob4933

Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2014
For starters, theres no comparable chipset to skylake or even devils canyon on AMD's side. AMD's performance line is still based on 4 year old architecture and wont change for another year (at the earliest). So for the budget, your best bet is still going to be intel....


I'll go through your list there.

compatibility -> Most intel boards will pretty much universally compatible. Much ado about nothing there honestly. That said, each motherboard from any manufacturer has a QVL of compatible, tested products.

Stability and durability -> power phase/ vrm section, pcb thickness and warranty should be your concerns here then. Asus "TUF" series motherboards have a 5 year warranty.

No-nonsense OC -> Each manufacturer has their own unique version of bios and all of them have their own quirks and settings that are unique or labeled unique at least. This simply comes down to YOU learning your product. Don't know what "Filter PLL" is? Time for you to take your manual out and look it up. Seriously though, its pretty generic across everything, higher end boards have some fine tuning settings that wont matter for a daily driven unit.

Smart placement of RAM, NB, SB, mosfets, power circuitry etc., especially for cooling purposes. -> Besides SATA and m2 ports, ATX is pretty much universal in where the DIMM's, cpu slot, and PCIE slots are. We can't really tell you what will be good and what wont, because you frankly have nothing to go on anyway.

Suitability for a wide range of CPU coolers -> this, again, isn't an aspect of the motherboard. Its the design of the heatsink and case.

Good integrated LAN card with cable socket -> most z170 boards have high quality NIC's anyway. Simply sort out what you need from the lists.

Room for upgrade, especially CPU -> This is a function of the chipset, not the motherboard. If intel happens to make the next series of chipsets compatible with z170, kudos for you. Otherwise youre simply SOL, and theres no way to really prepare or plan for that based on a simple motherboard purchase.

Mobo shouldn't requre a floppy drive/have BIOS issues when there's no floppy drive in the system -> Whens the last time a motherboard needed a floppy drive to update bios... I sincerely cant remember. All modern motherboards use flash drives to update/flash bios. Again, much ado about nothing here.

Any sophisticated power supply features need to work in Europe and in old building -> this is a function of your power supply, not your motherboard. Barking up the wrong tree again.


PCIE slot for discrete soundcard, even with a 3-slot GFX card -> then get a motherboard with 4 pcie slots... :bang head

No interference with GFX card length -> this is again a function of your case, not your motherboard. Unless youre planning on using some ridiculously oversized ram that I've never seen, this is never an issue. At worst, I've seen GPU's getting close to LARGE CPU coolers, but ive never seen an issue with ram and gpu clearance, ever.

Smart placement of CPU-section power plug and other plugs to facilitate cable management. -> This is an ATX standard. Some brands have horizontal (evga in particular) 24 pin connectors which I think should be used more, but they are all typically in the same/similar positions.



Long story short, sounds like an i5 rig with any z170 board will suffice your uses and needs quite sufficiently. Sorry, but youre really making big deals out of nothing. The most poignant think you spoke of us the LAN quality. You need to look at what type of NIC is integrated, interfaces required, power phase quality, and board quality. You don't need a Maximus or Rampage board here, you really don't. You need to post a budget of everything, things you want, things you need, and what you'd like to see over all. The rest of it is misplaced focus in my opinion.

Good luck with your build.