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I'm currently running an HP Pavilion m9047c, except that I've replaced the video card with a Diamond Radeon HD 4870, and upgraded the power supply to (I believe) 650 watts. I never added any RAM over the 3GB it came with, due to the 4GB limitation of the 32-bit OS. This video card has provided solid performance so far, but newer games are starting to demand much more than it can deliver.
Add to that the fact that support for Vista has ended (now I can't even get updates for Chrome anymore), and I know it's time for some upgrades.

I want to build a new desktop system, mostly for gaming (including modding and emulation), with a fair amount of general Internet use as well - shopping, YouTube, maybe the occasional video chat, etc.
I don't anticipate doing any video/sound editing, but might retouch photos now and then. I may also want to delve into some minor programming and/or web development.

I don't have a specific overall budget set, but my plan is to start with a base system - the lowest price possible without being inferior to my current machine - then making subsequent upgrades to improve performance (in particular, the CPU and GPU will both be upgraded as soon as funds allow).

For the motherboard, however, I would like to get something that I can run with for not just those imminent upgrades, but for several years to come.

Requirements:

  • Able to support all hardware listed in the "Recommended" system requirements for Fallout 4:

    • Intel Core i7 4790 3.6 GHz, or better (doesn't necessarily have to be the LGA1150 socket, if it can socket a better Intel CPU. I've been out of the marketplace for so long, I don't know how to compare two CPUs unless they're identical except for clock speed, or same architecture + more cores = better. That, and Intel is better than not-Intel. :-)
    • 8 GB RAM (or more, as much as possible up to the point at which this begins to significantly impact price). High speed for RAM is also important.
    • NVIDIA GTX 780 3GB (honestly, I'd like for it to support a GPU that I spend $400-500 on, 2-3 years from now, as well)

    Note that I will not be starting off with that CPU & GPU; they're my short-term upgrade goals.

  • Nothing about the motherboard makes it inferior to the IPIBL-LA board in my old Pavilion. In particular, the Pavilion has 6 SATA connectors, 6 USB ports, 100Mb/s Ethernet, a headphone/mic jack, and an SD-Card slot. But I don't care about the PS/2 mouse & keyboard ports, surround audio, 1394, or SPDIF jacks.

Optional:

  • Supports SLI
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • More USB ports
  • Whatever other bells & whistles the kids are putting on their motherboards these days
  • Cool-looking - I may get a windowed case

Not Required:

  • Integrated video (except if a board with integrated video that moderately outperforms the Radeon HD 4870, costs less than the sum of a comparable GPU and a similar board with basic/no integrated video - but this seems unlikely)
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Small Form Factor. I am planning to get a nice, roomy case so I can add expansion cards, more drives, etc., so I'm fine with a full ATX board.

$50-150 seems like a reasonable range for the motherboard.

  • Virtually all graphics cards should be able to work in this system unless they are so long they will not fit in your case – Aiden Grossman Nov 29 '15 at 4:35
  • I previously thought that the Radeon I'm using now was the best graphics card I could install in here because anything better would be bigger, and this card is quite possibly too big already - it's nearly touching the TV tuner card, and it took a lot of work to reroute my SATA and power cables around it. But after your comment I took another look and realized that you're right, bulk wouldn't be an issue (especially if I remove the tuner card, which I don't use anymore). But I also realized that the motherboard's bus speed could cause a bottleneck, so I added that criterion in place of size. – Dan Henderson Nov 29 '15 at 5:14
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    FYI, the Q6600 is a 64-bit CPU. The 32-bit limitation is from your operating system, not from your CPU. But for gaming performance, RAM isn't usually the critical factor. I don't know if you can improve things by upgrading the graphics card alone or if you'll need to upgrade the motherboard (there's usually little to gain by upgrading the CPU: significantly more powerful CPUs almost always require a different motherboard). – Gilles Nov 29 '15 at 12:05
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    @DanHenderson, the HP website you linked says Q6600 max, Wikipedia's entry for the G33 chipset implies any LGA775 chip, and pc-specs.com for the IPIBL-LA mainboard says nothing. For graphics, HP says nothing, Wikipedia says PCIe 1.1, and pc-specs.com says PCIe 2.0. – Mark Nov 29 '15 at 18:52
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    @DanHenderson top-notch question now, nice one. – ArtOfCode Dec 1 '15 at 0:01
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I would say you would be better off building a new computer. Here are the reasons:

  • Your CPU is probably only good for one more upgrade then it can't go any further. With a new build, you could choose a socket that you could upgrade possibly 2 or 3 more times, depending on how often and what performance you desired
  • As you mentioned, your computer uses DDR2 RAM. DDR3 and DDR4 RAM are much faster and will be avaliable for future upgrades.
  • A 650W power supply should be sufficient for awhile whether you upgrade or build a newer machine, provided it is of good quality
  • Your current build only has a PCIe 1.1 or 2.0 slot. From what I have read (I'm not 100% on this), a PCIe 3.0 card will work in a PCIe 2.0 slot without being slower except for very high end configurations such as the highest end cards or multi-card configurations such as SLI or Crossfire. Still, upgrading would provide you the option of upgrading the graphics several times.

As someone else pointed out, the only parts worth saving are the power supply, optical drive, and hard drive. The case would depend on how easy it would be to put new parts in the case.

My recommendation then would be to build a budget system, picking out the processor/chipset you want to keep and making sure the motherboard is something that will be good for awhile, as that is the component that is the biggest pain to upgrade. However, if you thought just upgrading the graphics card would get you by for awhile, then you could buy that as most cards will probably work in the system. Then you could take the card into a new build down the road when you thought you were ready. Keep in mind that you are more likely to bottleneck somewhere else in this instance, with a modern GPU but much older CPU and RAM.

EDIT: In response to the question update:

Motherboard and processor: You first need to decide on which socket you want to use. There are a couple viable options: LGA 1150, LGA 1151, and LGA 2011. Of these, LGA 2011 is older, but has seen a recent update (LGA 2011-v3, which is not compatible with the older LGA 2011 socket); LGA 1150 is the least advanced but the most available; and LGA 1151 is the newest, but also more expensive. The good news is that virtually any modern Core i5 or i7, and a good amount of Core i3s, that fit these sockets would be faster than a Q6600. As far as future upgrades:

  • LGA 1150 will probably see the fewest future upgrades, both to chipsets and faster processors. It uses DDR3 memory exclusively, and also has the fewest USB 3.0 and 3.1 compatible motherboards. However, most motherboards range from $50-200, with a significant portion under $150, and has the most motherboards to choose from (211 on newegg.com, for example).

    • Processors that fit this socket as good as a i7-4790: i7-4790K, i7-5775C, i7-4770K. Note: some high-end i5s, such as the i5-4690K, when overclocked can beat a stock i7-4790 in performance or be so close as to be indistinguishable
  • LGA 2011 is a more narrow spectrum of processors, and more high end. Advantages include DDR4 memory, dual full-speed PCIe 3.0x16 lanes on some models, and 6-core processors with large caches. However, many of these advantages are more noticeable in rendering applications rather than gaming, or only in very specific cases. Additionally, most of these processors carry high price tags, and there aren't really entry level processors in this group (the cheapest retails for over $300)

    • Processors that meet your requirements: i7-5960X, 5930K, and 5820K.
  • LGA 1151 provides probably the most future upgrades, provides DDR4 memory support, a fairly large selection of motherboards, and much more ubiquitous support for features like USB 3.1. Downsides are that the motherboards are predominately slightly more expensive (more between $150-200), but they do offer more entry-level processors, such as i3 and i5 processors for between $120-220.

    • Processors that meet your requirements: i7-6700K, i7-6700 (limited selection of processors currently, more likely to come).

Graphics: According to this GPU hierarchy, The lowest end card that is an upgrade that is nVIDIA is either a GTX 660 Ti or a GTX 760, but neither are readily available (old). The best value in a low end nVIDIA card is a GTX 950, which will run you about $135-150. An integrated Intel card could provide you with more performance, but it wouldn't be much of an increase over your current card and even the cheapest dedicated GPUs avaliable now would outclass it.

Conclusion

You have two routes that I see as viable both now and longer-term: save a little money now and go with LGA 1150, or go with LGA 1151 and have a longer viable lifespan. Keep in mind that you can still build a really really good machine on LGA 1150 that will still produce impressive gaming results for years, but if you will want the possibility to stay with the latest and greatest, LGA 1151 is probably a safer bet.

Specifics

  • Virtually any modern motherboard supports at least 8GB of RAM - indeed, I don't know of any that use either of the chipsets that support less than 16. Basically all of them at least have a single PCIe x16 slot, which is sufficient for basically any graphics card, provided there is physical room in the case and on the board. Also, 6 SATA ports and 6 USB ports (counting connections for a front case header) are virtually standard, as is a 100MBps Ethernet connection. As far as SD slots go, virtually any will support them (usually through a SATA connection), but you'll have to be such a reader separately. With that said, I've picked a board that meets your requirements:

Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI ($129.99). It supports:

  • LGA 1151 (Core i7-6700K)

  • 64GB Dual Channel DDR4 RAM (4 slots). Can be overclocked up to 3466 MHz.

  • Three PCIe x16 slots (supports 3-way Crossfire and 2-way SLI)

  • 6 SATA 6Gb/s connectors, 3 SATA Express

  • 6x USB ports on the back (mix of 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1). also includes 4 USB headers for the front and a USB Type-C port on the back.

  • 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet

  • Front panel audio header (headphone/mic)

Keep in mind I don't have specific experience with any LGA 1151 board - I picked this one because it was fairly well reviewed and met all your requirements at a decent price.

  • Over the last few hours (pretty much since you posted your comment on it), I've been working on a significant edit to my question. I appreciate the answer you provided, but can you expand it in the direction of the additional details I've just added? – Dan Henderson Nov 30 '15 at 4:14
  • @danhenderson are you partial to the LGA1150 socket or will a modern Intel socket do/does it have to support the i7-4790 or will any high end i7 do? – SSumner Nov 30 '15 at 13:43
  • i7-4790 or better - I don't know what's better though. Been out of the hardware scene for quite some time. :) – Dan Henderson Nov 30 '15 at 18:37
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    Impressive! Well-written and thorough. This board fits my criteria very well. – Dan Henderson Dec 1 '15 at 4:06

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