Best Motherboard CPU Combo for Different Computer Types [2014]

Find out what is the best motherboard CPU combo for a basic, mainstream, gaming and home theater PC right here.

With so many processors and boards to choose from, how does one single out the best CPU motherboard combos? This is how we do it:

1. Best match between motherboard and CPU. Having a socket that fits is just the beginning... a CPU and motherboard have to complement each other well. For example, pairing a "B" or "H" series motherboard with an unlocked Intel CPU is a common mistake. While they will work together, the motherboard is going to cripple the CPU's overclocking capabilities.

2. Must-have features for different computer types. Having built hundreds of computers, we know what's important for different users: HDMI ports for HTPCs to connect to televisions, SATA3 ports for mainstream PCs to fully support solid state drives, SLI and CrossFireX capable motherboards for a gaming PC to accommodate two or more graphics cards... the list goes on.

3. Rock solid motherboards made by top tier manufacturers - Asus, Gigabyte, ASRock and MSI (Biostar and ECS are considered tier 2 in general). Besides branding and warranty, we will scour user forums to weed out models with defective batches and known issues. For higher end boards, we will also examine other quality indicators such as capacitors, soldering, power phases etc.

1. Basic Computer
2. Home Theater PC
3. Mainstream Computer
4. Gaming Computer

- Best Motherboard CPU Combo under $125
- Best Motherboard CPU Combo for HTPC
- Best Motherboard CPU Combo under $250
- Best Motherboard CPU Combo for Gaming

1. Basic Computer  (Best Motherboard CPU Combo under $125)

Intel Celeron G1620 CPU  +  MSI B75MA-E33 Motherboard

Intel Celeron G1620

The launch of Haswell chips has pushed last gen Ivy Bridge CPU and motherboard prices to new lows. This is good news for everyone, and we've been able to snag the above CPU motherboard combo on Amazon for less than $100.

Don't let the Celeron label fool you... Careful testing by Tom's Hardware has placed Intel Celeron G1620's performance on par with mid end Core 2 Duo CPUs, making it more than adequate for everyday tasks such as web surfing, email, office applications and listening to music.

While it's rated at 55W, this CPU pulls just 15 to 30W under real world conditions. This doesn't just shave dollars off your electricity bills - Its low power requirements means you can make do with a (good quality) budget power supply such as Corsair Builder Series CX 430W.

The CPU comes with a stripped down Intel HD graphics 2500 (same specs minus the bell and whistles such as Quick Sync). This decent integrated graphics is capable of viewing images, playing videos and very light gaming (think old games at lowest settings). On the motherboard, you'll find a VGA port for budget monitors and a HDMI port for newer monitors and TVs.

MSI B75MA-E33

Now let's see what this MSI B75MA-E33 motherboard has to offer: 4 SATA ports for installing up to 4 hard drives or optical drives (one of them is SATA3, allowing for better support of solid state drives). 1 PCI-E x16 slot for a discrete graphics card, and a PCI-E x1 slot for an additional expansion card (such as a sound card, network card or connector card).

With USB 3.0 gaining widespread use and boasting up to 4 times faster transfer speeds, USB 3.0 ports are now a requirement rather than a nice bonus for budget motherboards. We're pleased to see that this board offers 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 at the back plus 2 more that you can connect to the front of a computer case. That's in addition to 8 USB 2.0 ports (4 rear + 4 front).

Low power consumption, decent performance and good hardware support makes this the best motherboard combo for the money - It will meet or even exceed the needs of most light users.

However we do have to be realistic at this price range. This budget motherboard and CPU combo isn't going to cut it for CPU or GPU intensive chores, such as mainstream gaming, graphics editing, media encoding and moderate multitasking.


Intel Celeron G1620 CPU
 


MSI B75MA-E33 Motherboard 





2. Home Theater PC  (Best Motherboard CPU Combo for HTPC)

AMD A6-6400K APU  +  Gigabyte GA-F2A85XN-WIFI Motherboard

AMD A6-6400K

Once considered as oddities, HTPCs have been gaining mass popularity and replacing traditional hi fi systems in recent years.

Introduced in 2011, AMD APUs are a refreshing development in CPU design. While most CPUs focus on processor speed and power, APUs lavish attention on the integrated graphics. The end result is APUs having so-so CPU performance but boasting superb integrated graphics. This makes them especially ideal for HTPCs where graphics performance matters a lot more.

AMD A6-6400K is a dual core 3.9 GHz CPU that sports 8470D integrated graphics. Retailing for just $70+, its graphics and video performance blows away anything Intel has to offer at that price range. In most cases, its graphics capabilities are comparable to Intel's HD Graphics 4600 (found only in $140+ CPUs).

This AMD motherboard CPU combo handles all common HTPC tasks with ease: watching full HD videos, streaming 1080p videos online, encoding videos, playing and burning Blu ray & DVD discs, listening to music and viewing high res images. What's more, it can even double up as a light gaming machine that runs most modern games at low and older games at medium settings.

This processor has a neat feature that's often overlooked: overclocking. In fact it is one of the cheapest processors that is fully unlocked, allowing you to overclock both its CPU and integrated graphics for performance gains.

Gigabyte GA-F2A85XN-WIFI

Since most people prefer a small HTPC that can placed on a TV shelf or tucked away in a corner, we have selected a compact Mini-ITX motherboard that will easily fit into a small form factor case.

For starters, Gigabyte GA-F2A85XN-WIFI comes with what all good Mini ITX boards should have:

1 PCI-E x16 slot (for a dedicated graphics, sound or TV tuner card etc.),  2 standard DIMM slots (supporting up to 64 GB RAM), 4 USB 3.0 ports (2 front, 2 back), 6 USB 2.0 ports, 4 SATA3 ports (for hard disk, solid state and optical drives) and a high speed LAN port. 2 HDMI ports and 1 DVI port enables you to hook up to almost all modern monitors and TVs.

High quality audio is essential for a HTPC, and we were pleased to find a respectable Realtek ALC892 sound chip on board. It supports 7.1 HD audio and S/PDIF digital audio, allowing you to connect to high end speakers and headphones for a true home theater experience.

But what really excites us about this little board are its integrated wireless features: It comes with Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 on board, allowing you to connect to the Internet and Bluetooth devices (phones, tablets, wireless speakers etc.). This frees up your USB ports and PCI-E slot, plus you won't have to spend a cent on separate wireless adapters.


AMD A6-6400K APU 


Gigabyte GA-F2A85XN-WIFI Motherboard 





3. Mainstream Computer  (Best Motherboard CPU Combo under $250)

Intel Core i3-4130 CPU  +  Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H Motherboard

Intel Core i3-4130

Smart phones and tablets have taken the world by storm, but most people still prefer a desktop PC for getting serious work (and play) done. To achieve that, we need a motherboard and CPU combo that is powerful enough to meet most people's needs... while being affordable enough for the masses.

Now let's see how much value we can squeeze from this ~$210 motherboard CPU combo:

Intel Core i3-4130 has 2 physical cores with Hyper Threading. That means each core is able to execute 2 instructions at the same time, allowing it to operate as a quad core CPU and boosting its performance by up to 30% (vs similar processors without Hyper Threading).

Whether it's web surfing, email, office applications or playing media files, this CPU handles most routine tasks with ease. While it isn't as fast as an Intel CPU with 4 physical cores (e.g. Core i5), it still packs enough punch to take on demanding applications such as moderate multitasking, gaming and graphics editing.

Intel deserves credit for integrating Intel HD 4400 Graphics into this CPU, injecting it with ample graphics horsepower to view high res images, watch high def videos, encode videos and edit videos. You can even push it to play most newer game titles on low settings.

Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H

Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H's rich set of features and expansion options outclasses most other motherboards in the $80 price range: 4 x DIMM slots (for up to 32 GB RAM), 4 x USB 3.0 ports (for USB 3.0 storage drives), 8 x USB 2.0 ports (4 front, 4 back), 6 x SATA connectors (for internal hard disk, solid state and optical drives), high speed LAN port (for wired Internet).

Its Realtek ALC892 is one of best onboard sound chips you'll find on a mainstream motherboard, supporting both 7.1 HD audio and S/PDIF digital audio. While audiophiles and enthusiasts will always insist on having their own dedicated sound cards, the rest of us will be more than satisfied with this motherboard's clear audio output.

A triple combination of VGA, DVI and HDMI ports gives you the freedom of hooking up to any monitor and TV you want (with the rare exception of DisplayPort-only monitors). If you intend to install a discrete graphics card, then you'll be pleased to know that this board has not one... but two PCI-E x16 slots that supports AMD CrossFireX for a dual graphics card setup.

This motherboard's solid build quality also deserves praise. Japanese solid caps, ferrite core chokes, high grade MOSFET, glass fabric PCB and dedicated USB fuses enable it to better withstand high temperatures, power surges, electrostatic discharges and humid environments. What we have here is a durable and stable motherboard that should outlast its 3 year warranty.

Whether it's for home or office use, this robust and versatile motherboard CPU combo will be more than adequate for most people. Unless you're someone with exacting needs (heavy gamer, graphics designer, video professional, overclocker), this value-for-money combo is going to serve you well for the years to come.


Intel Core i3-4310 CPU 


Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H Motherboard 





4. Gaming Computer  (Best Motherboard CPU Combo for Gaming)

Intel Core i5-4670K CPU  +  MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Motherboard

Intel Core i5-4670K

Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, handheld consoles, video game consoles... Nowadays you can play games on so many devices, but none can match a gaming PC's visual prowess and selection of games.

There are good reasons that make Intel Core i5-4670K so popular among gamers and techies:

Impressive performance - 4 cores running at 3.4 GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo Boost) doesn't sound mind blowing on paper, but extensive testing by credible sites (AnandTech, TechPowerUp, XbitLabs, OverClock3D etc.) have all led to the same conclusion: This higher end CPU delivers outstanding performance for its price.

Intel Core i5-4670K aced everything that the reviewers tossed at it... synthetic benchmarks, office software, graphics editing, video rendering, 3D modeling, data processing and of course hardcore gaming (with a discrete graphics card). In fact, it outperforms AMD's FX-8350 in most tests, an astonishing feat considering that FX-8350 is a 8 core monster running at 4.0 GHz.

Overclockable - With a good "Z" series motherboard (see below) and aftermarket heat sink, you can push this unlocked CPU to 4.2 GHz and beyond. While seasoned overclockers will complain that older Sandy Bridge CPUs overclock better (and they're right), you have to remember that this CPU runs about 15% faster at the same clock speed and consumes less electricity.

Intel HD Graphics 4600 - Yes, we know you'll be installing a discrete graphics card (or two) in all likelihood, but it's still reassuring to know that you have a robust integrated graphics as back up. If you ever have to send your graphics card for repairs, you'll be still able to continue with casual gaming and graphics editing.

For the best gaming motherboard CPU combo, we'll need to pair this killer CPU to a rock-solid motherboard with first rate features and competitive prices.

MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming

Asus ROG and Gigabyte G1 boards have been dominating the gaming scene for years, but their $300 plus price tags are just too much for most people to stomach. Retailing for less than $190, MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming motherboard offers almost as much in features and build quality... at a fraction of the price. No wonder that it has been winning over gamers and reviewers in droves.

Let's begin with its graphics card support: 3 PCI-E x16 slots combined with SLI and CrossFireX support gives us a motherboard that is able to accommodate up to 3 Nvidia or AMD graphics cards at the same time. Along with its 4 other PCI-E x 1 slots, this ATX board has a 7 expansion slots in total for graphics cards, sound cards, network cards, connector cards etc.

Killer is the undisputed champion in game networking, with enthusiasts routinely forking out $100+ for a dedicated Killer network card. That explains why we were excited to find a Killer LAN port on board. This luxury component has its own processor to direct Internet traffic and minimize game lag.

Its premium onboard sound also deserves an honorable mention. By combining a top end audio codec (Realtek ALC1150) with custom refinements (EMI shielding, high grade capacitors, gold plated audio jacks), this motherboard is able to produce superior sound that's almost on par with dedicated sound cards.

True to its name, MSI's OC Genie makes overclocking so simple that it's almost magical. Press the "OC GENIE" button on the motherboard. That's it - MSI automatically tweaks the clock speeds and voltages to overclock your CPU and RAM. Power users who prefer manual control can turn to MSI's Extreme Tuning Utility to push the CPU, RAM and graphics card even harder.

To round things off, here's a quick run-down of its other features: connects up to 8 internal hard drives (with RAID for instant backup and quicker data transfers), onboard mSATA slot (for SSD caching) and 6 USB 3.0 ports.

At the end of the day, we end up with a gaming motherboard CPU combo that truly does it all: hardcore gaming, heavy graphics editing, heavy multitasking, heavy overclocking and more. The real triumph for us is achieving this without breaking the bank. While most gaming motherboard CPU combos cost in excess of $500, this high end combo goes for less than $400 on Amazon.


Intel Core i5-4670K CPU
 


MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Motherboard 





CPU Guide