Have A Merry, Merry Motherboard
Got your CPU? Good. Now it's time to find a motherboard fit to carry it. Here's a list of our favorite mainboards from the past year for both AMD and Intel platofrms, arranged from least expensive to most.
MSI 790FX-GD70 - $180
As one of the few DDR3 full CrossFireX-capable AM3 boards to hit our labs this year, this MSI board is ideal for any high-end AMD build. It features a respectable price tag, but plenty of features that'll allow you to turn your low-key starter machine into a rather impressive multimedia or gaming rig. DDR3 RAM support, plenty of ports and no fewer than four PCIe 2.0 x16 slots--it's kind of a no-brainer, really.
ASUS Maximus II Gene Motherboard - $216
Engineered to be a fully-featured board for those not quite willing to splurge on a Core i7 processor, this mobo is designed to function with Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad chips, giving you plenty of flexibility. It'll only handle DDR2 memory, but the multitude of ports and expansion options make this ideal for someone planning to grow their machine over time. And did we mention that it performs like a champion?
Gigabyte P55-UD6 (Core i5) - $240
Back into bang-for-your-buck mode, the new batch of Intel P55 boards to hit the market, strike a nice balance of features and Core i5 platform performance. The best part is, you won't need to upgrade your memory to a tri-channel kit if you don't want to. Those same 2GB DDR3 sticks you have in that 4GB dual channel config of your current system will do the trick just fine. We like Gigabyte's offering in P55 boards but look for a round-up of the beasts coming soon here at HH as well, for more options!
Asus P6T6 WS Revolution - $370
It won't break the bank like the other Core i7 board here will, and for most users, it'll still provide plenty of options and flexibility. One of the nicer options here is the inclusion of NVIDIA's NF200 PCI Express fanout switch chip, which enables various 3-way SLI combinations. There's also full Gen2 PCIe X16 3-Way SLI support (48-lanes), which should please the speed freak that you're buying for. Better still, it fully supports NVIDIA 2-Way and 3-Way SLI technology and ATI CrossFireX technology, up to Quad CrossFireX, so even if their GPU choices change, their mobo won't have to.
EVGA X58 3X SLI Classified - $600
You could probably tell from the "Classified" tagline that this mainboard wouldn't be cheap, but then again, neither is the $1000 CPU you're buying to fit into this. Designed to meet only the highest of demands, this souped-up board can hold 24GB of DDR3 memory, more GPUs than you can afford and plenty of optical / hard drives. This ain't your mamma's motherboard, but you already knew that when you looked at the price.