Building a computer is not only about shopping for different parts and assembling them.
For instance, when choosing a motherboard, there are so many options that choosing one can be very difficult.
So, this buying guide will tell you how to select a motherboard without going into the stress that comes with it.
When buying a motherboard, there’s an assortment of different brands with various specs.
Which keeps enthusiasts from making any decision for weeks while hooking them to binge-watch reviews and comparing every last detail.
Table of Contents
How To Select A Motherboard?
Motherboard Buying Guide Basics – The Basic Connectivity Options to Check
The motherboard is the central hub of all activity in a computer system. It holds everything together.
But it’s not always easy to know what you’re looking for or where certain connections might be found on your board before buying one.
When choosing a new case for your PC, there are many different factors that go into finding out which type will best suit your needs!
You may have heard about how important the right case can make an impact when building a machine from scratch: vents and cooling systems play key roles in determining.
If this component (along with others) runs smoothly without any interruptions during usage – so take some time reading up on these features along with other specifications like its size and compatibility.
An important factor that you should consider while buying a motherboard is connectivity.
This includes the USB ports, fan connectors, DIMM slots, M.2 slots, and any other port or connector on your PC you might need to connect peripherals like storage devices.
Also, you can browse the manufacturer’s product page, to find many different specifications such as the number of USB port types, cooling device type and size, and even whether or not Wifi capability exists.
Most product pages list these specifications quite clearly, but it’s always worth checking in case there are any specific features of your peripheral that may not be compatible with certain models, such as SATA ports, if using an older hard drive, for instance.
What to Consider When Buying a Motherboard? Things to Know!
The motherboard shapes the foundation of our computers. Users who are not familiar with the hardware usually do not give it enough attention, focusing more on other components like CPUs or graphics cards instead, but in reality.
Its role is crucial to a large extent. Having a state-of-the-art motherboard can allow us to update most of the peripherals in the future, including the processor, without having to change the board entirely.
And furthermore, as we will discuss later, motherboards have a profound impact on user experience.
There are a lot of things you need to look for in a motherboard, and when you look at it.
It’s easy to see why they are so important. A motherboard is a complex and complicated product, especially when you get into the technical details that are beyond this how-to.
Some of these details can be important for your buying decision, though!
Below we’ve outlined some info in hopes it will help with your purchase:
- Choosing the platform (Intel or AMD)
- Sockets and Chipsets
- RAM Slots
- Size and Form Factor
- Motherboard Expansion Slots
- GPU Support
- Motherboard header
Choosing the Platform
This is a tough decision for PC builders. On the one hand, Intel offers CPUs that are great at running today’s most demanding games.
Because they offer faster processing speeds and more cores to handle the calculations needed to render graphics in real-time.
AMD, on the other hand, has always been known as an affordable alternative with entry-level options good enough for web browsing, productivity work, and light gaming.
But their newest line of Ryzen processors has made them competitive by offering more threads without costing you too much money!
Which motherboard should I use? That depends on what type of computer tasks will be performed: if your main purpose is video editing or playing high-performance games, then go with Intel.
While those who mainly surf Facebook should stick with low-budget AMD. However, Intel and AMD both constantly update their products.
So it can be difficult to keep up with the changes. As of this guide’s writing, though, Intel is on its ninth-generation CPUs while AMD has introduced Zen-2 and will soon release Ryzen 3rd generation, which has many improvements over previous generations.
Once you’ve decided which CPU is best for your machine, it’s time to pick a motherboard that has the right socket and chipset for your use case.
Basically, you need a processor that will securely attach your chosen CPU directly to the board.
A chipset works with all components connected to your computer, in order to allow communication among them seamlessly.
Socket and Chipsets
Socket: While CPUs come in many shapes and sizes, they all need to be attached to the same thing: a socket.
This determines the type of motherboard you will need to use with your CPU, as well as any future upgrades or replacements for this component.
The first step when deciding what kind of processor would be best suited for your PC is determining which physical socket it uses on its motherboard by looking up what processor family matches yours (e.g., Ryzen or Intel).
Chipset: A chipset is the motherboard’s hardware and software that allows all its components to communicate with each other.
Each particular board has a specific type of chip that determines what CPUs it can support, so research your CPU before choosing an appropriate motherboard.
Understanding how to select a chipset is an important step when it comes to choosing a motherboard. Having the knowledge on what to consider when buying a motherboard not only impacts which CPU.
You can use but also what components will be available for installation. There are different chipsets that offer various levels of RAM and GPU support depending on if they’re designed for gaming or office workstations.
For example, if you choose Intel as your brand but purchase AMD instead – they won’t match up because their respective sockets would not work together.
This system ensures cross-compatibility between boards as long as there are compatible CPUs installed, or else problems can occur when trying to install a chip into the socket.
Your PC contains a lot of very important and complicated bits, pieces, and parts that you might not even realize.
One such component is the Random Access Memory (RAM), which stores information while your computer is on.
The number of RAM slots on a motherboard is another consideration for buyers.
Not only are you picking the board from an aesthetic standpoint, but also with how much memory.
It can handle and what kind of upgrades to expect in the future as technology advances. In most desktop motherboards, there are four standard slots, which should be plenty if your current rig has two sticks.
Moreover, RAM compatibility is not an issue these days. Most motherboards can support a wide range of memory speeds, as it’s just a matter of enabling XMP/DOCP in the BIOS every time you want to try out some new RAM sticks.
Size and Form Factor
Desktop motherboards come in three different sizes and allow for a lot of flexibility. The size you choose depends on what your needs are as well as how much space you have available to work with.
Some people prefer the kind that takes up less room, while others want something more robust with lots of features.
Basically, your motherboard’s form factor determines which size of computer case you need, how many expansion slots are available to work with, and various aspects that go into the design of your board.
Larger boards usually provide more DIMM ports, full-size PCIe slots for graphics cards as well as M.2 connectors for ultra-fast storage drives like SSDs.
The three common and widely known factors are ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. The ATX motherboard is a standard size for many PCs.
However, if you’re looking to save space, it’s definitely worth checking out the Micro-ATX (10” × 9”) or Mini ITX format (8.6” × 6”).
Motherboard Expansion Ports
Motherboards connect a variety of components. These include the CPU, graphics cards, sound cards, and much more!
The ports that these devices plug into are called expansion slots.
There have been many kinds over time, but thankfully things became simpler!
Today you will find mainly PCIe ports with some motherboards, also including PCI legacy slot for older tech to work in your computer system.
PCIe is the most important part of your computer, and it’s one you’ll use to connect many components. There are four sizes of PCIe slots: x1, x4, x8, and x16.
Which dictates both the bandwidth as well as what size card can be inserted into them at any time. PCIe is the new I/O standard that you’ll see on most motherboards today.
There are four different types of PCIe slots 1, 2, and 3 as well as 4.0 for newer processors such as Ryzen 7 3700X or Intel 9700K (Comet Lake).
The throughput of a slot determines both its size and power connection type–the more pins it has to transfer signals at once, the higher capacity.
It will be able to handle in terms of data transfer speed per second.
Hence, make sure your board supports all expansion needs with an ample number of PCI Express ports when choosing a motherboard!
PCs are designed to take in information, such as video or audio.
However, there’s a catch: humans can’t read numbers and letters without some sort of visual aid!
That is why every PC needs an output system that takes the raw data stored on your hard drive (or other storage devices) and translates it into something you can understand.
The component responsible for this function is known as the graphics card or GPU; if your motherboard doesn’t support one, then someone else will have to do all those calculations instead of them being done by yourself.
When it comes to choosing a GPU, there are many things you need to consider, from the type of game or application that requires one and your motherboard compatibility.
Which will vary. However, if you are buying a motherboard for gaming, then here’s something important: Check out the benchmarks and compatibility of the GPU with your motherboard when buying!
When it comes to using a computer, there are two types of storage devices you can consider, HDDs or SSDs.
With both these options available, which one should you choose?
If your priority is the price-to-storage ratio, then an HDD will suit your requirement because they offer more space at less cost than SSDs; but if speed matters most, then go for an SSD since they allow files to load and respond faster in comparison with HDDs.
There are also storage connectors that you’ll want to consider when shopping for a motherboard.
That includes both the kinds of connections and how many connections you’ll have for adding storage to your PC.
Some of these connection types are internal, while others can be external; however, there is one particular type known as serial ATA or SATA.
Which has become quite popular over recent years — especially its third generation being SATA 3.0, which can provide data speed transfers of up to six gigabits per second (Gb/s).
It is important to think about the different headers that will be needed before making a purchase.
For example, if you need a USB Type-C front panel header, then it would also make sense for your motherboard to have this connection available as well.
When it comes to connecting lighting elements such as fans or LED strips, you want a 12V RGB header on the motherboard.
If affordability is your top priority and the availability of older parts doesn’t matter much, then opt for an RGB header that’s compatible with 4-pin headers – this will allow easy connection options while also working well in most cases.
For more premium boards and higher power requirements, among other features like better scalability across larger; consider opting for 5v 3-pins.
Which may be found on slightly pricier motherboards but offer advantages when used properly, including faster speed transfers.
What else to consider when buying a Motherboard?
Although motherboard manufacturers do not design their own chipset, they make countless decisions pertaining to manufacturing, aesthetics, and layout.
The range of these additions is too wide to fully cover; however, the common ones include.
SLI and Crossfire
SLI and CrossFireX refer to the ability of a motherboard or graphics card, respectively, to accept more than one GPU in order to increase their combined performance.
SLI is typically used with Nvidia GeForce cards, while AMD uses its own standard called Crossfire-x. However, both standards are compatible for use on either company’s GPUs as long as they share the same processor type.
High-end motherboards offer a wide range of overclocking features, such as automated testing and tuning to overclock your CPU, GPU, and memory.
They may also feature an onboard clock generator for fine control of the frequency on your processor while keeping everything cool with extra thermal sensors near these components.
Motherboard components such as the PCH and VRM generate significant heat. Motherboards are designed to keep these parts at safe operating temperatures by utilizing cooling solutions, from passive heatsinks to integrated water-cooling systems.
Motherboard software is a must-have for any computer user. The suite can monitor, update and adjust anything on the motherboard from within Windows 10 without having to go into BIOS.
Some suites even offer in-depth power-saving profiles that are unavailable through Windows 10 alone, just what one needs when they’re looking at their battery life!
Motherboard software makes it easier to manage your motherboard with just the click of a few buttons from inside Windows 10.
It offers more advanced features than Microsoft’s own OS does, and will automatically scan for outdated drivers as well as provide customizable fan speeds.
So you don’t have to worry about overheating during intense gaming or productivity sessions.
RGB headers are a big part of high-end motherboards and provide customizable colors and effects to an array of LED lights.
Non-addressable RGBs power LEDs with only one color at a time, but addressable RGBs can display several hues simultaneously on the board, making it easy for enthusiast PC builders to customize their stands and build cool lighting setups!
If you don’t have an Ethernet cable near your computer, the wifi is the next option for you. And if you plan on keeping your PC around for years to come, look into one of these motherboards that comes equipped with a Wifi 6 compatibility!
Aesthetics – The Fancy Thing
A motherboard is just a fancy PCB (Printed Circuit Board). However, this doesn’t mean that you should have an ugly board sitting in your computer case!
In fact, manufacturers have made improvements on how the boards look as we left behind green PCBs from years ago.
Nowadays, most motherboards come with neutral-colored boards like black, which makes it easier for them to blend into any color scheme of lighting or other elements inside the PC cases.
However, if you don’t care about lights, get a case that doesn’t have one. Also, if the only time you’ll see your system’s innards is when it’s powered down with the side panel off.
There’s no reason to opt for flashy I/O covers or heatsinks (unless they’re blocking something important).
But, if you prefer RGB lighting and an open side cover, then it is better to think of it when choosing a motherboard.
If your computer does happen to have a transparent cover on top like most high-end cases do these days, make sure whatever board sits in place looks good enough when seen at a said angle.
Remember Your Budget
Your motherboard determines the features you can install on your computer. For example, it’s difficult to find a board with RGB lightning and wifi for less than $100 because these are expensive add-ons. Here is what you can expect from the market.
Less than $100: You can get an AMD board with overclocking capabilities in this range, and it’ll come at a cheaper price than that of Intel’s.
But if you’re looking for the best features like wifi included on your new motherboard, then look above $100 to find one.
Between $100-$150: Boards with Intel’s Z490 and chipset, which you’ll need for overclocking, are relatively low-priced.
At this range, you will also start to see more AMD boards that have higher-end chipsets (X570) and premium features such as RGB lights or wifi.
Between $150-$200: You can see the difference between a cheap motherboard and one that is expensive. You will notice more RGB lights, beefier heatsinks with better power phases, and VRMs.
Which are important for competitive overclocking. The ports range expands in motherboards that come within this range.
Above $200: When it comes to high-end motherboards, they feature top-of-the-line components which have been thoroughly tested for performance and stability before release.
They also offer extreme overclocking features which mainstream builders don’t need yet can be useful in specific circumstances such as a hardcore gamers rig.
Where they might find themselves pushing their CPU or GPU beyond what most would consider safe levels just to achieve an extra few frames per second in gameplay.
Whether you’re purchasing a motherboard for your existing PC or building one from scratch, understanding the components of a motherboard is crucial.
Once you know what everything does, it’ll be much easier to choose from among many different motherboards available and find one that fits both your budget and needs.
If you’re going all-in and investing a lot of time in your purchase decision for the motherboard, it’s important that this investment is made with longevity and reliability in mind.
The upgrade path can be an overlooked factor when choosing a new motherboard, yet it influences how long it lasts before needing replacement due to obsolescence or lack of compatibility as newer technologies come out.
Be sure you research beforehand whether there are any upcoming CPU releases so that, if necessary, your current motherboard could accommodate them without changing anything else on the system.
Buying a motherboard can be confusing. Do you buy the cheapest one that will work with your processor?
Or do you take time to research and find out which features are necessary for your specific build?
The best choice might not even exist in another person’s life; hence it is important to consider the above aspects of motherboards before making a decision.