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HTPC Guide

Zertz , technodanvan , tacohunter52    -   March 15, 2009
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The Motherboard (cont'd):

For an HTPC a mATX board should be used. As I stated before, you may be able to use an ATX board, but I wouldn't unless you really need the extra slots. Although I don't suggest using an ATX board, I'll be choosing both mATX, and ATX boards that should work well for an HTPC.

mATX Motherboards:

AMD:

  • ASUS M3A78-CM: I've had multiple bad experiences with ASUS motherboards, but this is one sweet little board. It has 6 SATA slots, 4 DIMM slots, and a great layout. The 6 SATA ports are located near the RAM, and will not be blocked by any GPU you install. On top of that, the 8-pin auxiliary power connector is right on the edge. This will make any wire management job a helluva lot easier. It also has very decent integrated graphics, and includes the ability to run dual monitors without installing a GPU. I highly recommend this board to any HTPC user.
  • JetWay JPA78VM5-LF: Jetway is a relatively new brand, and I've heard mixed reviews about them. I've only actually used one of their motherboards. I had no problems with it, although they could have done a better job on the layout. I'm including this board, because it is relatively cheap and has AM3 support.
  • XFX MIA78S8209: I've used this board in a couple builds with no problems. It has great integrated graphics and has the ability for dual monitors without a GPU. Installing a GPU might block the corner of the IDE slot, but this is ok since we'll be using SATA ports. As for the layout, it takes some getting used to. The CPU socket is located towards the center of the board, and the DIMMS have been flipped sideways. They are now located in the CPU sockets old home.
  • BIOSTAR TA790GX XE: I'm currently very fond of 790GX boards. I have never used an mATX version, but I'm sure it would perform just as good.
  • Foxconn A7GM-S 2.0: 780G's are great boards. They have very decent integrated graphics for an affordable price. I'm fond of Foxconn boards, and I've had great experiences with this one. Once again you'll be able to use two monitors without installing a graphics card. When using a larger graphics card it can block 4 SATA ports. If you won't be using a GPU this board is a definitely one to consider.

Intel:

  • ASRock G43Twins-FullHD:Intel boards tend to cost a bit more, so you won't be able to get as much for your money. I like this board for a few reasons. For one, it's simply a great board and has a pretty good layout. Installing a graphics card will not block your SATA ports. I also like its RAM support. You can use both DDR2 and DDR3 RAM, and while DDR3 isn't something you should waste your money on now, you will have the option in the future.
  • MSI G45M-FD: I like MSI boards and this one is no different. The integrated graphics are decent, and you will be able to run dual monitors without a GPU. The layout is blah, but installing a large GPU shouldn't block your SATA ports.

ATX Motherboards:

I do not recommend using an ATX motherboard for an HTPC, but I know some of you will. The reasons why are obvious. You'll have more PCI slots, more PCIe slots, more SATA slots, and bigger is better, right? Many of the ATX boards I frequently use would be out of our $100 budget, so I won't list them here. Just keep in mind, better boards do exist if you don't mind spending the money. If you would like help searching for one, either ask around in the forums, or if this is too embarrassing (and it shouldn't be), go ahead and shoot me a PM. I'd be glad to help you spend your money. An obvious problem you may run into is the size requirements. If you're using an HTPC case you may have trouble fitting in an ATX board. This doesn't mean that they won't fit. It will just be tight. In the end the choice remains yours.

AMD:

  • ECS A780GM-A: I don't usually like ECS products, but this board didn't give me anything other than decent performance. The layout is a little poor because installing a large GPU will block SATA ports.
  • GIGABYTE GA-MA780G-UD3H: This is a great little board from Gigabyte. It's a mixture of affordable and great performance. The layout is a little wonky, mainly because the USB connectors are located to the left of your second PCIe x 16 slot.
  • ASUS M3A78 Pro: This board is great and I love it. It has an awesome layout, perfect for wire managing. This is one of the few boards you'll be able to install a large GPU on without blocking any ports.
  • MSI K9N2G Neo-FD: This board is pretty decent for the money you spend on it. The layout is okay, as well as the performance. My only real complaint is how close the power connector is to a larger GPU.

Intel:

  • Foxconn G31AX-K:This board has an interesting story to it. I was supposed to be building a surveillance rig, so like anyone I Googled and asked around. I was pointed to this board and sure enough Newegg was advertising it as a surveillance board. I thought what the hell, it's pretty cheap, so I ordered it. I wasn't expecting anything great from this board, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not because of performance or layout, but because of the amount of PCI slots. This motherboard has five PCI slots and one PCIe slot, with which you can easily install a GPU without blocking SATA ports. A motherboard with this many PCI slots would be perfect for an HTPC. You could install a large GPU, a sound card, and then 3 TV tuners at least. While this is overboard for an HTPC, it's still cool. Plus the board's performance isn't half bad.
  • GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3L:This is a great board for the money. Great layout, 6 SATA ports, dual bios, decent overclocker. The only downside is you'll have to install a GPU, as it has no display ports.
  • MSI P43 Neo3-F: I've only used this board once and I don't have much to say other than I liked it. 8 SATA ports, 4 PCI slots, and a decent layout. Just make sure you don't want the PCIe x 1 slot because installing a GPU will block it. You'll need a GPU because, once again there is no display port.
  • MSI P45 Neo-F:I'm a pretty big fan of the P45's, and this one is great for the price. The layout is much better than the P43 version, but you'll only get 6 SATA ports and 3 PCI slots. There are two things you should be aware of if you purchase this board. First, you'll need a GPU, and secondly, make sure you install the RAM first; the GPU can get in the way of the brackets for the RAM slots. Other than that, this is a pretty good board.



  1. Introduction
  2. The Parts - An Overview
  3. Processor
  4. Processor (cont'd)
  5. Processor - Overclocking
  6. CPU Heat Sink
  7. Memory
  8. Graphics Card
  9. Graphics Card (cont'd)
  10. Sound Card
  11. HD Tuner Card
  12. Hard Drives
  13. Optical Drives
  14. Motherboard
  15. Motherboard (cont'd)
  16. Power Supply
  17. HTPC Case
  18. Final Thoughts
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