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Building a Gaming PC

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Greetings;

 

We already covered the CPU and RAM, now time to check out what brings two's two and all other components of a PC together, the motherboard! Remember that the CPU is the brain, the RAM is the short term memory, well the motherboard is the backbone and spinal cord of your PC.

 

The Motherboard;

 

It's get's it's name simply because nothing would work without it. It links every single components of your PC, it relay's and regulates information between components, regulates voltage to those components and can host a multitude of integrated peripherals (Video card, sound card, ethernet adapter/controllers, wifi and bluetooth adapters... ...).

 

All motherboard share the following components regardless of brands or models.

 

CPU Sockets, (already covered this aspect in part 1)

Memory Banks (or slots, partially covered in part 1),

Chipset interface between the CPU's, main memory, and peripheral

Flash ROM / Bios containing the system's firmware

Expansion slots, a number of PCI-E slots of variable speeds that can be use to add a Video Card, Sound Card and other additional components.

Backplate, where all external peripherals will connect to your system (keyboard, mice, USB hardware... ...)

 

Now let's have a closer look at the Chipset, since it is the only consideration to have in mind when planning an upgrade or building a new system for most gamers.

 

The Chipset. There are currently 6 different Intel chipset, that support both Sandy/Ivy bridge LGA 1155 architecture. If you have read part 1, I should not have lost you just there! How can one make sens of all those different chipset. To start their are only 3 worth mentioning in my opinion, H77, Z75 and Z77.

 

The chipset will have an impact on the number of PCI-e Slots, their speeds, the number of SATA ports and speed (SATA ports are used for Hard drives and CD/DVD/BluRay drives and more), it also determines what version and number of USB ports you will have, muti-GPU support and even more. As you can see the chipset is a very important aspect of a PC. As with everything else in computing, newer version offer more features and better performances.

 

Choosing between the three chipset (H77, Z75 and Z77) is a question of multi-GPU support. The Z75 "only" supports up to 2 GPU in x8 more or single in X16. The Z77 supports up to three GPU. If you never plan to run more then one GPU in your PC you can go for a H77, but it removes the ability to add an extra video card in there to boost performances, something I urge you to consider (see part 3 for details). But overall, Z77 offers best value since it offers more upgradability in the future, just add a Video Card or Two down the road!

 

What complicates things is that not all motherboard with identical chipset have the same features. So you must be very careful in your selection.

 

Choosing a good manufactures is also important, it will impact the reliability and durability of your motherboard. It won't boost gaming performances, but it will make your life easier and will benefit you overall. Asus, ASrock and MSI are the big 3, but Asus tends to always end up on top. I will recommend from the Asus line up, but any Z77 from the big 3 that has the features you need will do the job! I did not include Gigabyte since it is a manufacturer with an history of problematic drivers.

 

Incredibly, Asus offers 18 variation of motherboard built on the Z77 Chipset. How to get a sens of what to look for can seem challenging. It all boils down to memory support, muti-GPU compatibility. It depends on your take on muti-GPU support, features and extras, more importantly your budget! 150$ -400$ is a huge range...

 

 

Please comment or ask any questions related to this part 2.

 

To part 3, Graphic cards!

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Asus Motherboard recommendations:

 

The P8Z77-I DELUXE only has 2 x DIMM ram, it is the cheapest and oldest board of that chipset. P8Z77-M only support crossfire, removing you the possibility to go for Sli later on if you choose. P8Z77-M PRO, -V LX and -V LE have restriction in memory timing and is limited in the PCIe slots and capacity and LAN ports! All those should be avoided !!!

 

P8Z77-V PREMIUM offers 4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8 or quad x8) and supports SLI and Crossfire up to 4 way. Yes 4 WAY! It is thunderbolt ready up to 6 devices (an interface for connecting peripheral devices). It has 2 Gigabit LAN Controllers, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s), 3 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s) and an other 2 x eSATA 6Gb/s and a front panel 5 1/4 for USB 3.0 ports!

 

Now if having 2-3-4 video cards running in your system is not your thing, then P8Z77-V PRO/THUNDERBOLT is the way to go.

 

Finally if you do not care for thunderbolt connectivity the the P8Z77-V DELUXE is the choice for you. What is thunderbolt, what can it do for you? Easy, it is the brand new brain child of Intel, it's already on a couple of Macs and PC motherboards out there. USB 2.0 has a low top speed of 0.480Gbsp vs USB3.0 that has a max speed of 4.8Gbps compare to the whooping 10Gpbs for thunderbolt. Thunderbolt also can provide double to power to devices then USB can do. So you will see more and more Storage device and other peripherals with Thunderbolt in the next year!

 

All Maximus V Z77 based motherboard are also great choices, but they tend to be a bit pricier since they are the Ferrari's of motherboard! It also depends on your budget!

 

ASRock Motherboard recommendations:

 

Z77 Extreme 4 offers 4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8 or quad x8) and supports SLI and Crossfire up to 4 way.

 

Fatal1ty Z77 Professional-M offers 4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16, x8, x8 or quad x8) and supports SLI and Crossfire up to 4 way.

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