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I am going to be building a computer for a college student. He is going into general engineering while he figures out exactly what he wants to do. The budget for this computer is about $1500 USD (just for the tower). This computer will be running Windows 10. He will be using this computer for school work and for gaming. Since this is the first question, I will be asking about the motherboard.

Requirements:

  • 4 slots of DDR4 RAM
  • At least 4 SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • At least 2 PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots
  • Can support at least 1 front USB 3.0 port
  • At least 2 back panel USB 3.0 ports
  • At least 6 back panel USB ports (includes USB 3.0 above)
  • One Gigabit LAN port
  • UEFI BIOS

Not Needed:

  • Integrated graphics
  • Integrated WiFi/Bluetooth

As this is a new build, the processor is not set in stone.

  • What kind of school work? Will he be just typing things up, or might he be doing some viewport/rendering? – timuzhti Sep 14 '15 at 7:41
  • @Alpha3031 He might be rendering. Hopefully he will decide what he wants to do soon. – Cfinley Sep 14 '15 at 13:05
  • Are you looking for an Intel, or AMD option? Or does it not matter? – hhaslam11 Sep 14 '15 at 16:04
  • @hhaslam11 It doesn't matter at this time. That will be my next question, based on the answers I get from this question. – Cfinley Sep 14 '15 at 16:05
  • @Cfinley, if he is rendering, the Welsburg platform (X99, for Haswell-E/EP/EX and Broadwell-E/EP/EX) would definitely be preferable. I don't think AMD has any current SKUs with DDR4 support. – timuzhti Sep 15 '15 at 2:42
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It's a bit expensive (listed at $250 on Newegg and $290 on Amazon), but I recommend the Fatal1ty X99M Killer from ASRock. This particular board was reviewed by Tom's Hardware in December 2014. It received "Tom’s Hardware Approved Award"

It has the following specs:

  • 4x288 pin slots for DDR4 memory modules.
  • Supports up to 64GB of RAM.
  • 2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (a third x16 slot is PCI Express 2.0)
  • 10x6Gb/s SATA ports
  • 6 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 4 Rear), 8 USB 2.0 (4 Front, 3 Rear, 1 Fatal1ty Mouse Port)
  • Dual gigabit lan ports
  • UEFI Bios and the ability to enter into Bios automatically on the next restart because:

    Restart to UEFI

    Fast Boot is so fast that it is impossible for users to enter the UEFI setup utility during POST. Therefore, ASRock Restart to UEFI technology allows users to easily enter the UEFI setup utility automatically when turning on the PC next time. It is designed for those who constantly need to enter the UEFI setup utility.

    - ASRock material on the board

This is a micro ATX board. It'll fit in pretty much any case you can throw at it. The concern with a smaller case (if you stick with the micro ATX) will be how well a large video card fits.

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I'm surprised no one has thought to suggest a Skylake based platform. Unfortunately, the CPUs only have 20 lanes of PCI-E, so the second x16 has to come off the PCH, or divide bandwidth in half (PCI-E x8). Not really much of a problem if it's used for GPUs though.

My recommendation is the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 5. 4 DDR4 DIMM slots, 6 SATA III (6 Gb/s), 3 SATA Express, and 2 M.2 slots as storage interfaces. 3 back panel and 4 headers for USB 3.0, 4 back panel and 2+2 headers for USB 2.0, and two back panel USB 3.1 slots, one is USB A, one is USB C. There are two Gigabit LAN ports.

The motherboard currently costs $160 at superbiiz, and yes, there is a UEFI BIOS.

Here's the spec sheet: http://www.gigabyte.com.au/products/product-page.aspx?pid=5498#sp

7

I always initially recommend ASUS motherboards because of their build quality and great support among other things.

  • The ASUS Q87M-E/CSM ($130) works with i7/i5 CPUs, 6 SATA 6Gb/s ports, micro ATX form factor, and built in features such as ASUS GPU Boost and BIOS EZ mode for easier overclocking.

  • The ASUS A88X-PRO ($120) works with AMD Athlon/A- Series CPUs, supports a wide range of memory frequencies, 64GB max RAM, and lots of helpful ASUS features such as MemOK! and USB BIOS flashback.

I've had many bad experiences with ASRock motherboards in the past as many others have, so I tend to stay away from that brand.

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