The Best Motherboards For $138 Or Less (Part 3) - LGA 1155 Motherboards

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5/7/2014 11:53:31 AM

LGA 1155 Motherboards

Asus P8Z77-V LX (E83.04 Ebuyer)

Other than the exotic ASRock Fatality and its ilk, this is probably one of the best motherboards you can get for LGA 1155 second-and third-gen Intel processors.

It's an Intel Z77 board, so you get two physical x16 slots, one of which can run at PCIe 3.0 and another that works in PCIe 2.0 x4. There are also two PCIe xi slots and three legacy PCI slots in the package.

Asus P8Z77-V LX motherboard

Asus P8Z77-V LX motherboard

The only real limitation of this chipset over the new Z87 designs is that it can't accept the Haswell-cored CPUs (wrong socket), and it only offers a couple of 6Gbps SATA ports, along with four of the 3Gbps variety. On the plus side, it has plenty of USB ports (3.0 and 2.0), a great 4+1+1 phase power design and can accept up to 32GB of DDR3 2400 (overclocked) in the four memory slots provided.

Interestingly, there's an 'LX2' version of this board, which features a slightly different layout with fewer PCI slots, no DVI or S/ PDIF. This can be found for $21 cheaper.

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 (E98.64 Ebuyer)

The 'Extreme' moniker isn't rolled out for all ASRock boards, only those with a really high specification and long feature list. ASRock Z77 Extreme4 meets those criteria, being fitted out with premium gold capacitors and featuring a unique digital power management. If you have an LGA 1155 CPU with some overclocking potential, then this is probably the motherboard to exploit it.

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 motherboard

ASRock Z77 Extreme4 motherboard

It's also an excellent gaming platform, as the dual x16 PCIe slots can be simultaneously run in x8 mode for CrossFireX or SLI (quad on both).

To fix the aforementioned SATA limitations of the Z77 chipset for SATA 6Gbps ports, ASRock added an ASMedia ASM1061 chip to this design that adds a couple more and eSATA and an ASMedia ASM1042 that doubles USB 3.0 ports too.

The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 is a classy offering, for anyone wanting to make the best of their third-gen CPU.


Thankfully for the sanity of this writer, AMD chipset and sockets are much less numerous and complicated than the Intel equivalents.

For desktop systems, AMD has only three current options: 900 Chipset for AM3/AM3+, 700 Chipset for AMD3/AM3+ and those 800 and 700 series derivatives for FM2 APUs. Although it's relatively easy to find the desktop 800 series boards and unless you want or have a CPU that exclusively needs 900 series, they're very cost effective.

To make things simple, I've concentrated on 9 Series motherboards for AM3+ and those Fusion controller hubs (FC H) that are currently in use with the AMD A-Series.  

9 Series Chipsets

 Designed to support the AM3 and AM3+ desktop CPUs, these motherboards will take AMD Athlon II, AMD Phenom II and AMD FX processors. What you're effectively paying for with the higher-end models is the number of PCIe lanes, with the 990FX featuring no less than 38 lanes.

One slight variation on this theme is the 980G, which comes with integrated All Radeon 4250 video, for those who want plenty of CPU power but don't care much about graphics. These all feature SATA 6Gbps via the SB950 south bridge, but USB 3.0 is often provided on the board by a third-party chip, as it's not included in the chipset functionality.

ASRock 990FX Extreme3 motherboard

ASRock 990FX Extreme3 motherboard

At the prices on offer, there's little point in going for anything other than 990FX or 990X boards, unless your budget is especially tight.

My only concern with this technology is that AMD seems destined to dump the FX series in the near future in preference for an APU future. Because of that, the CPUs available for this platform are unlikely to see new releases in the near future or possibly ever.

ASRock 990FX Extreme3 ($125 Overclockers)

I wondered if you could get a 990FX motherboard inside this budget, and the answer from ASRock is an emphatic 'yes'. It supports 32GB of RAM up to DDR3 2100 (0.C.), has three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots for multi-GPU setups and has USB 3.0 courtesy of the Etron EJ168A support chip. The ASRock 990FX Extreme3 is a feature-rich design that puts most desktop systems to shame and most motherboards that cost at least $207.

MSI 990FXA-GD65 ($113 Ebuyer)

This is a slightly odd motherboard, which uses the 990FX chipset yet doesn't really leverage all the PCI lanes available. However, you do get dual PCIe x16 slots and a PCI legacy slot. It also supports 2133MHz RAM for those that like overclocking and has two USB 3.0 ports provided by an NEC D72020. This is a very cheap 990FX motherboard, for those that want the top tier chipset.

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