Best 1150 Gaming Motherboard and Intel CPU Combo 2016
Now that Skylake has been out a while I thought it'd be a good idea to look back and see just exactly what kind of CPU motherboard combos we can get for cheap. As I'm mostly interested in gaming I'll be looking for deals that not only compare well to Skylake, but will give you the same kind of performance for cheaper.
Haswell Versus Skylake Processor for Gaming Performance
I recently wrote a post on whether or not you should upgrade your old Ivy Bridge computer and go with Skylake right now or just spruce up your old PC by adding some newer hardware. For the money, I was able to get just about the same performance out of my older Ivy Bridge PC when compared to my newer Skylake one. This is even closer with Haswell which closely mimics Skylake in terms of in-game performance.
Whether you're looking to upgrade your old PC, or simply build a new Haswell one, there's a lot to still like about the platform. The i5-4690k is still a beast at overclocking and more importantly 1150 motherboards are cheaper than ever. This, along with cheap DDR3 costs, should allow you to make a fantastic Haswell gaming rig on a budget and one that certainly won't make you miss Skylake.
Types of Haswell Chipsets
Haswell motherboards come with eight different types of chipsets: H81, B85, Q85, Q87, H87, Z87, H97 and Z97.
Here's what the four different letter codes mean, more or less: much more in-depth information is available if you need it.
Intel Letter Code
What it Means
For a basic home PC
For business, has identity protection features
For business, budget-oriented
For performance users who overclock or do video rendering: photo and video editors and gamers
The Difference Between the H97 and Z97, and the H87 and Z87
The 9-series Haswell chipsets, like the H97 and Z97, are sold at a significant premium compared with their 8-series counterparts like the H87 and Z87. While the "9" chipsets have some fancy upgrades like SATA Express, M.2, and Thunderbolt, the main reason for the premium is that the "9" chipsets are compatible out of the box with Haswell Refresh. Haswell Refresh processors include popular options like the i7-4790, i5-4690, and i3-4360.
As a rule, the "8" series chipsets like the Z87 are NOT compatible with Haswell Refresh processors unless you upgrade the BIOS on the board. Some newer Z87 boards ship with a newer BIOS; however, it's a bit tricky being sure of compatibility. Many of the ASUS boards have a USB BIOS Flashback capability that make it easier to update without having a working CPU. If you're wanting to save money by using a Z87 board with a Haswell Refresh CPU, look for one of these USB BIOS Flashback boards.
Best Budget Haswell CPU/1150 Motherboard Combos
Below are several good combinations, in three price ranges, of Haswell CPUs and 1150 motherboards.
For Standard Power Users: CPU/Motherboard Combination for $300 or Less
If you're not an overclocker, there's no reason to go with a Z87 board over a less expensive H81 or H87 board.
Also, if you haven't upgraded since before Sandy Bridge, then keep in mind that Intel's "K" designation means that a processor is unlocked for overclocking. If you are not an overclocker, you can save a little bit of money by going with the standard version without the "K."
A Good and Cheap Haswell Motherboard CPU Combo Around $200
Gamers who want good performance, but don't want to mess with overclocking, and want to spend around $200 could pair the i5-4460 with . This micro ATX motherboard makes for a great compact system and will work fine with today's latest GPUs. I recently used this motherboard in a HTPC system that I'll be using in my theater room. MSI's H81M-E33
While I used Intel's anniversary G3258, I'm still impressed with the overall value that the board gives you for under $50. While some Intel H81 chipset motherboards may require an update, this motherboard shouldn't have that issue as long as you don't purchase an older version.
The i5-4460 along with a cheap motherboard should give you just about all the CPU performance you'll need for your Haswell gaming rig.
For Overclockers: CPU/Motherboard Combination for About $300
If you want more out of your processor, I recommend either the i5-4670k or the Haswell Refresh i-5-4690k. You can use these with a motherboard like for an overclocker's dream at right around $360. Gigabyte's Z97 Gaming 3
You can also save some money here by going with something like MSI's Z97 PC Mate. Still an overclocker it gives you a lot of the same features for around $60 less which leads to a value CPU motherboard combo at right around $300.
Pair the Gigabyte GA-Z79X Gaming 3 with the i5-4690k and use Gigabyte's Quickboost to automatically overclock your system.
Haswell Refresh CPU/Motherboard Combo From $450 to $550
You're Considering a Haswell/Haswell Refresh CPU
While Haswell may not be able to reach an overclock operating frequency as high as Ivy Bridge, it's important to understand that per clock Haswell is more efficient by 5% to 10%. This means that even if you can overclock an Ivy Bridge to 4.9Ghz, and a Haswell to only 4.5Ghz, you're still better off with the Haswell CPU.
Two Haswell Refresh CPUs: i7-4790k Vs. i7-4770k
It's hard not to like the Haswell Refresh CPUs which achieve better overclocks and start at a higher operating frequency. The i7-4790k, shown below, has a stock operating frequency of 4.0GHz with turbo up to 4.4Ghz while the i7-4770k sports a more modest 3.5GHz base frequency and 3.9GHz turbo.
Asus Maximus VII Hero Vs. VI Hero
It's hard to ignore the price differential when looking at these two motherboards. Yes, the Maximus VII Hero will be compatible with Broadwell in the future; yes, it will work plug-and-play with Haswell Refresh CPUs; but at around $100 more, it may be hard for some to justify it over the cost of the Maximus VI, whose BIOS can be easily updated through USB without an existing Haswell Refresh CPU.
Update: Although the VI was a great deal in it's day, it's now difficult to find. Look for the Asus Maximus VII HERO now for around $120 used, $200 new, or simply go with the Gigabyte Gaming 3 I mentioned above.
You could also consider using a Skylake system along with the 1151 Maximus VIII HERO which comes in at around $230.
Compatible with Haswell Refresh out of the box.
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Best Value Motherboard 2015: ASUS Z87 Pro
Overall Best Value Motherboard 2015: Z87-PRO
If you're in the $100 to $120 price range, then there's one feature-rich motherboard that should be at or near the top of your radar. That's the Asus Z87-PRO (there's an Amazon link above).
Winner of the Tom's Hardware Smart Buy Award and the Anandtech Editor's Choice award, the Asus Z87-PRO comes with ASUS Dual Intelligent 4-way optimization, USB 3.0 boost, Wi-Fi GO!, USB BIOS Flashback, and AI Suite III. Wi-Fi GO! is a great way to connect all the tablets, smartphones, and other devices you have around your office or home.
- Supports up to 32 GB of dual-channel memory at up to 2800 O.C.
- Expansion slots include two PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8), one PCIe 2.0 x 16, and four PCIe 2.0 x 1.
- Rear panel ports include a PS/2, D-sub, HDMI, DisplayPort, 6 USB 3.0, 1 Optical, and 6 audio.
- Three-year ASUS parts and labor warranty.
Which type of chipset do you plan on purchasing?
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With the Broadwell CPU release around the corner, it seems that motherboard manufacturers are scrambling to get rid of their Z87 product. Take advantage of it if you can, and get the most out of your hard-earned money.
© 2013 Brandon Hart
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