How Much Money Should I Put into a High-End PC Motherboard?

Are high-end motherboards worth it? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Jae Alexis Lee, Professional Jill Of All Trades, on Quora:

Whether or not a high end motherboard is worth it all depends on how you’re going to use your board.

Let’s say you’re Joe Gamer. You’ve got a nice 1080p monitor, a GTX 1070, an i5–6600K and a modest AIO water cooler, let’s say a Seidon 120V. The only fans in your system are the ones that came with the case and this PC represents such a significant investment for you that the notion of overclocking causing a catastrophic failure you couldn’t afford to recover from is terrifying enough that you’re just going to run everything stock because you’re considerably less likely to let the magic smoke out of your system that way. You need a system board to shove all your stuff in so you look at your options and you’re trying to decide between:

Option A)

and Option B)

You guys can tell which one is more expensive just by looking at them, right? So, what does the board on the bottom give you that the one on the top doesn’t? Well, for one thing, built in water cooling support for the VRMs… really handy for serious overclockers with custom water cooling systems. But… that’s not Joe Gamer is it? So, would you pay an extra $200 to have that feature? Doesn’t seem worth it to Joe Gamer does it? But remember, that extra $200 isn’t just getting you water cooling support. No, it’s also getting you the really spiffy LED debugging display and motherboard controls for system testing when you’re… oh, wait… when you’ve got an overclock that you’re trying to dial in and you’ve gotten the system in a state where it won’t even boot because you loaded a custom BIOS and you need to restore from nearly bricking your board…. Um… maybe not so useful for Joe Gamer either is it?

We’re not even talking about the system board features here that cater to LN2 overclockers, those insane people who pour liquid nitrogen (or liquid helium when liquid nitrogen just isn’t cold enough) onto their CPUs. We’re just talking about open loop, custom water cooling level of overclocking support here.

See, high end system boards have a ton of features that for enthusiasts who push their hardware… they’re really handy features. But for Joe Gamer… Joe’s never going to notice a difference. Build a system with either board and all else identical, run everything stock… Joe Gamer’s not going to be able to tell the difference… except the higher end board has more parts that light up, which Joe Gamer might not even notice if he’s using a case with no window.

But what if you are an enthusiast? What if the system that leaves your panties damp looks more like this:

What if you’re the kind of gamer who can’t imagine settling for just two graphics cards? Who doesn’t understand why anyone with an unlocked CPU wouldn’t have the thing dialed up 1.0 Ghz+ over spec? The kind of enthusiast who doesn’t just know the speed of her CPU but knows the voltage it’s humming along at?

If you’re that kind of person, then yeah, the high end motherboard is worth every penny. After all, why cheap out on a system board when you’re going to spend twice that on fittings, radiators, pumps and all the other goodies that go into your cooling system? Keeping things stable when you’re pushing the system to its limits demands a better foundation and budget boards just aren’t going to cut it.

So, ultimately, it depends what kind of user you are. Joe Gamer is probably fine with a modest, mid-grade system board in the $100 - $150 price range. Jane Enthusiast won’t really blink at enthusiast boards in the $300 - $500 range because she needs what those boards have to offer her.

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