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Desktops & Components

Best HTPC Motherboard

A Home Theater Personal Computer, or HTPC, is a system built to stream media to a large television or projector as part of a home theater setup. While you can use a wide range of different motherboards for this type of rig, in general you want a board that is ideal for handling a lot of media and keeping your system running cool and quiet. Look for a motherboard with at least one good video card slot, to keep your video media playing fast and smooth. You’ll also want a ton of storage, so that you can keep as many media files as you want on your system, and options for enough RAM to keep your system running smoothly.

These HTPC motherboards can run a maximum of at least 32GB of RAM, which is more than enough for a home theater setup, though some can handle even more. They have at least one really good slot for a video card, which is sufficient for a serious media player, but if you plan on using your HTPC for gaming, then you may want to look for a board that can handle more than one video card. These boards give you at least six slots for SATA connections, which lets you have a ton of storage in your computer. Both Intel and AMD motherboards can work great for an HTPC, and these boards use chips with relatively low power requirements, which help keep your system cool without creating a lot of noise.

GIGABYTE GA-F2A88XM-D3H FM2+ AMD A88X (Bolton D4) HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

Gigabyte made a lot of excellent decisions in designing this board that all come together to create a perfect choice for any HTPC. There are four memory slots on this board that support up to 64GB of 2400 DDR3 RAM. You also get a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot on this board that is perfect for a powerful video card to keep your media running smooth and fast. There are eight SATA connections on this board, which gives you options for installing a ton of storage into a computer built with this model. One important thing to consider when looking at this board is that the FM2+ socket is compatible with the A10-Series APUs offered by AMD. These processors combine general processing cores as well as cores dedicated to processing graphics. This can actually let you set up an HTPC without a video card, or with a fairly low-end graphics card, utilizing the processing power of the APU for streaming media or playing content from your hard drives.

Gigabyte Intel Z97 LGA 1150 Micro ATX Motherboard GA-Z97M-DS3H

If you prefer Intel to AMD, then this is probably the best option for you when choosing an HTPC motherboard. It has four memory slots and can support up to 32GB of 3100 DDR3 RAM, which is more than enough for a home theater rig. This model has a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, perfect for a high-performance graphics card. While that’s not ideal for building an HTPC that is also meant for playing demanding PC games, it’s perfect for streaming media or playing video and audio from a hard drive. There are six SATA connectors on this board, so you can build it with a ton of storage for your media content. The CPUs that work with this motherboard have pretty low power requirements, so you can keep your system running well without creating a lot of extra noise to keep your rig cool.

ASRock Micro ATX DDR3 1333 LGA 1150 Motherboards H97M PRO4

There’s nothing wrong with this motherboard, but it’s just not quite as ideal as the Gigabyte GA-Z97M-D3H. This model has four slots for memory with support for up to 32GB of 1600 DDR3 RAM. That’s just as much maximum memory as the Intel board from Gigabyte, but the maximum speed is much lower on this model, so you’re far more limited in how fast your RAM can be with this motherboard. This model has a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, which is perfect for a fast video card. You get six SATA connections on this motherboard, which is pretty good, but nothing spectacular. The H97 chipset on this board doesn’t support overclocking while the Z97 on the Intel board from Gigabyte does, but this should still work well for many HTPC builds.

Gigabyte AM3+ AMD DDR3 1333 760G HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Motherboard GA-78LMT-USB3

Although this is still a very good option for an HTPC motherboard, it’s just not as strong as the GA-F2A88XM-D3H from Gigabyte. This model has four memory slots and supports up to 32GB of 1600 DDR3 RAM. That’s half as much memory as the other AMD board from Gigabyte, and the maximum speed of the RAM is significantly slower with this board. You get a single PCIe 2.0 x16 slot on this board, which is perfect for a fast video card that uses the PCIe 2.0 interface, but if you want to use a PCIe 3.0 graphics card, then this motherboard won’t work for you. This board has six SATA connections, but they are 3.0Gb/s connections, rather than the 6.0Gb/s connections on other boards. You do get an IDE connector on this board, which is perfect for older hard drives that use PATA connections, so keep that in mind if you plan on using an older hard drive in your HTPC.

MSI H81M-P33 Intel H81 Micro ATX Motherboard

While this is still a great option for a HTPC build, it’s just not as strong as some of the other models you could pick to work with an Intel CPU. This board has only two slots for memory, while many other options have four, and supports only up to 16GB of 1600 DDR3 RAM. That should be plenty of memory for a HTPC, but only having two slots limits the way in which you can set up your RAM, and makes this choice a poor option for building a powerful HTPC to also work as a gaming rig. You get one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot on this board, which works well for a solid middle-of-the-road video card, but won’t work if you want to use a PCIe 3.0 graphics card. There are only four total SATA ports on this board, two SATA3 and two SATA2 connections which is less than most other comparable boards. That limits how many hard drives you can set up with this board, so keep that in mind if you want a ton of storage.

Greg Wiesen
With an AA in Computer Animation, I have spent years building computers and playing video games. I learned early on that the best way to figure out a new software program was to just start pushing buttons and see what happens (saving often, of course), and that is still my philosophy. From hard drives and motherboards to graphics cards and "holographic" keyboards, I enjoy checking out and playing with all the tech I can get my hands on. I have written hundreds of informative computer and technology articles in the past, and I believe that anyone can understand and use a computer. I'll worry about research and trying out different hardware, you just enjoy the results.
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