Many computer builders, particularly first-timers, do not put enough thought into the computer’s motherboard (or mainboard). They tend to “satisfice" and choose the first motherboard that meets the minimum requirements, which usually involves choosing a board with the right socket, memory slot type, and video card slot. However, like the processor, the motherboard often dictates the upgradeability of the desktop computer.
At the low-end, consider the Gigabyte G41M-ES2L motherboard. This board features the Socket 775, PCI-Express video card slot, a gigabit LAN, and two DDR2 240-pin memory slots. Running a 32-bit operating system, this board can support up to 4GB of RAM and can support up to 8GB of memory for a 64-bit operating system. At just US$64.99, this one is quite a feature-packed bargain.
For a bit more power and upgradability, consider the EVGA nForce730i motherboard. This socket 775 board features on-board audio and video in case you want to put more money into the CPU/motherboard combo and don’t need to have fantastic graphics and sound. The EVGA 730i also features USB 2.0, a gigabit LAN, and supports RAID storage configurations. At US$109.99, this mainboard is a good deal for any computer.
At the higher-end of the budget Christmas 2009 computer, consider the EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI motherboard. As its name suggests, this board support SLI configurations with its multiple PCI-Express video card slots, a feature unheard of in most budget machines. This gives you maximum upgradability in case you decide you need more graphics power down the road. Surprisingly, this board also comes standard with on-board audio, USB 2.0, Firewire, eSATA, and it even supports RAID storage options. At $129.99, this board is about as expensive as you could go for a sub-$1000 budget computer and not have to skimp on your computer’s remaining components.