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Dated: Dec. 26, 2011
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CPU - Processor
The tech-savvy should be well aware of the benefits of building their own personal computers. The relatively easy process of assembling various components can not only save you a boatload of money, but also supply you with the perfect rig for your individual needs. Whether you are updating a current machine or building a new one from scratch, the most important part you buy will probably be the motherboard. Involved in almost every major computing process, a motherboard can make or break your personal computer. However, technology is changing so rapidly that it's sometimes hard to know what's cutting edge and what's outdated. But, no matter what you're looking for, we've got you covered. Below are the three best motherboards of 2011, as determined by price, performance and durability. Since motherboards tend to be divided between Intel and AMD processors, a comparable board for the other processor is included in each category.
The Best Bargain: The BIOSTAR A780L3B
Not everyone needs the flashiest motherboard on the block. The BIOSTAR A780L3B provides all the power a typical user needs, at a very affordable price. It may not have all the bells and whistles, but this sleek little board supports 16 GB of memory and an ATI Radeon 3000 onboard chipset. It has an AM3 socket, meaning it supports AMD's line of Athlon II, Phenom II, and Sempron 100 processors. For those playing casual games, working with basic media, and browsing the web, this basic motherboard is all you need. Indeed, it could knock the socks off of the high-end motherboards on the market only a few years ago.
Of course, for some, the A780L3B is simply not powerful enough to get the job done. The sort of people who build their own computers tend to have a thing for building the fastest, most reliable and most impressive rigs they can afford. With only one PCI slot, you will find your options limited with the A780L3B. It's also not designed for extensive heating, meaning any sort of hardcore gaming is ill-advised. It appears that there are also undisclosed downsides to the A780L3B that are only revealed in the motherboard manual, such as its support solely for HD audio.
Still, for a quick and sturdy motherboard, it's hard to beat the price of the BIOSTAR A780L3B. And, for this reason, it is the best bargain of 2011.
Intel Alternative: MSI G31TM-P21
The Best Performance: The ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe
ASUS has come up with a real winner in the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe. This motherboard has it all. It's blisteringly fast, made of quality materials, and has too many features to enumerate here. The LGA 1155 socket supports Intel's Core i3, i5, and i7 processors, and the board supports up to 32 GB of memory. It comes with the Intel Z68 chipset, as well as built-in Turbo Boost Technology. With a plethora of ports, connectors, and expansion slots, this motherboard is the board of choice for those looking for the possibility of ultimate customization.
As well as being amazingly powerful, the P8Z68 is well-built, meaning it should last for years. Gamers will delight in its overclocking capabilities, and an easy interface means that once the motherboard drivers are installed, it's ready to go. The price is compensated for by the fact that this motherboard will not be obsolete for a very long time, by technology standards. The P8Z68 will take anything you can throw at it and come back asking for more. If you can afford it, buy it. It's really that simple.
AMD Alternative: ASUS Crosshair V Formula
The Best Overall: The ASUS Maximus IV Gene-Z
The two boards featured prior to this have been two extremes: the best of the ch
eap motherboards, and the best of the expensive ones. But there is a whole market in between, filled with individuals looking for performance at a reasonable rate. The ASUS Maximus IV Gene-Z sets itself apart from the mid-level motherboard crowd with its versatility and power. Like the P8Z68, the Maximus IV Gene-Z comes equipped with the LGA 115 socket, Intel Z68 chipset and can handle 32 GB of memory. It has fewer features, but buyers of this motherboard will find little to complain about. Gamers will be pleased with the simplicity of overclocking this motherboard, while traditional users will love its reliability and efficiency.
It's not at the bleeding edge of the market, but the Maximus IV Gene-Z has much of the performance power of the P8Z68, for over one hundred dollars less. This impressive board is a true bargain, and quite possibly the best motherboard of 2011.
AMD Alternative: BIOSTAR TA990FXE
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