The Best Motherboards For $138 Or Less (Part 2) - LGA 1150 Motherboards

5/7/2014 11:53:27 AM

Intel Cougar Point and Panther Point Chipsets

Like the later Lynx series, these motherboards all use the DMI 2.0 Bus Interface with a 4GB/s speed, but they differ wildly in terms of what SATA and USB support you get and if they support legacy PCI. If you must have a legacy PCI slot, I'd go for a Q77 board and otherwise I'd pick Z77. Some of the older Cougar Point designs have very few SATA ports for no obvious reason other than Intel dividing the market up.

If this looks complicated (and it is unnecessarily so), then with a budget of $138 I'd focus on only the best chipsets. For LGA 1150 that would be Z77 and H77, and I'd ignore the rest unless you want to save money. While you can find the odd Z75 board, most board makers entirely ignored this chipset.

By way of recommendations I've picked a few each for those with LGA 1150 and LGA 1155 processors that represent good value for money at under $138 for each of them. Here's a small selection of the many sub-1100 boards you can find.

LGA 1150 Motherboards

Asus Z87-K ($127 Scan)

The number of Z87 boards Asus makes is quite bewildering, but this one has the right price and specifications for those who like the full ATX form factor.

Asus Z87-K motherboard

Asus Z87-K motherboard

It's also something of a looker, with its distinctive yellow highlights on a black board.

What's most appealing, however, is the comprehensive feature set that wrings tons of functionality out of the Intel Z87 chipset.

Special to this design is support for 4K HDMI, both CrossFireX and SLI multi-GPU modes, mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports, Asus DIGI+ VRM Phase digital power design for stable overclocking and USB 3.0 Boost (UASP Support).  

The only warning I have about this design is that Asus doesn't support Windows XP on it, so that restricts it to a Windows 7 or 8 systems, in theory.

MSI Z87M-G43 ($118 Eclipse Computers)

As a skilled motherboard maker, MSI can easily get the contents of a full ATX motherboard into less space. That's proven by this well rounded micro-ATX board designed for fourth-gen processors using LGA 1150.

MSI Z87M-G43 motherboard

MSI Z87M-G43 motherboard

t's built using Military Class 4 components and features two PCIe x16 slots for CrossFire multi-CPU mode. It can accept up to 64GB of DDR3 3000MHz RAM (OC), six 6Gbps SATA devices and has MSI's latest Click BIOS 4 optimized for Windows B.

The only caveat to this board is that it isn't certified for SLI, and it will look rather lonely in a full size ATX case.

ASRock H87M-ITX ($124 Overclockers)

Making things small usually comes with a big cost overhead, so I was slightly shocked to discover this H87 board in the ITX form factor. It's a tiny 17cm square board, yet ASRock has managed to cram most of the critical items in that space to build an Intel fourth-gen socket 1150 system.

ASRock H87M-ITX motherboard

ASRock H87M-ITX motherboard

Ports include six SATA3, one eSATA four USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0. There's a single PCIe 3.0x16 slot for discrete video and DVI-D, D-Sub and HDMI-out from the integrated CPU. The only major downside of such a small platform is that there's only room for two DDR3 memory slots.

Gigabyte Z87-HD3 ($132 Overclockers)          

In terms of the visual impact this all-black Gigabyte Z87-HD3 looks exceptionally classy. In addition to looking good, Gigabyte loaded it up with long-life solid capacitors, a gold-plated CPU socket and low temperature MOSFETs. This is all aimed at making a very overclockable system for those with unlocked LGA 11 50 processors.

This design also supports CrossFireX (not SLI sadly), using the dual x16 slots (one x16, the other x4).

The only catch with this and many other Z87 boards that you need to be aware of is that due to a limit on PCIe lanes, when you use the second PCIe x16 slot (the x4 speed one), all the PCIe x1 slots are disabled.

Gigabyte Z87-HD3 motherboard

Gigabyte Z87-HD3 motherboard

However, in almost every other aspect this board is probably oversubscribed, having four USB 3.0 ports on the back panel, three system fan headers, both S/PDIF in and out and even headers for serial and parallel ports.

This is a great design, and typically from Gigabyte, somewhat over-engineered.

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