Choosing a motherboard can be quite a hectic processor as there are so many options to choose from in the market. Which motherboard will be the right choice for you?
That is the question that many PC builders ask when looking to build a new system. After all, the motherboard is the building block of a PC build and also its backbone. Without it, the different PC components won’t be able to communicate with each other.
If you choose a motherboard that is old and you get the latest components your PC won’t perform to its full capacity, because of the motherboard. However, if you get a newer motherboard that has all the features to ensure that your components communicate with each other without any hindrances then your PC will be able to perform at the optimum level and even go further beyond.
The form factor of the motherboard should also be considered as that will determine the size of the PC as well as what components it will support. Moreover, the chipset of the motherboard will determine what kind of processor you will use as not every motherboard supports all the CPUs out there.
This is why extensive research needs to be done and consumers go watch tech tubers and streamers to recommend the right motherboard for their PC.
But that is time-consuming and not everyone has the time, which is why in this guide I will try to educate you about the crucial features you should look for and how to choose a motherboard for your PC.
What is a motherboard?
We have already covered this section in detail which you can check over here. The motherboard is the main printed circuit board that forms an interface through which the pc components connect and then interact with each other.
It comes with a processor socket, memory slots, expansion slots, USB ports, PCIe slots, voltage regulator module, integrated graphics, SATA ports, etc in which different components are plugged in to make up your PC build. Due to its necessity, it has been named the motherboard.
Factors to Consider
When going out to buy a PC you should decide your budget so you can dedicate a portion of it toward your motherboard so you can have an idea of which motherboards come into your budget range.
The form factor of a motherboard determines its size. Motherboards come in a lot of sizes but the most commonly used form factors are:
- ATX motherboards
- Micro ATX motherboard
- Mini ITX motherboards
The ATX form factor motherboards are large motherboards that have ample space to host a plethora of features and they need a big tower-sized casing to host them. Micro ATX form factor motherboards are smaller boards that take less space than ATX-sized boards. The Mini ITX boards are the smallest of the three form factors and they take less space and also come with reduced features.
Next up is the platform you are going to go with, whether you are going to go with an Intel build or an AMD one. Both companies have partnered up with motherboard partners such as MSI, Gigabyte, Asus, etc, and launched motherboards compatible with the latest generation of processors.
Both Intel and AMD have launched processors in the market from the lower end to the top end. There is also the difference in chipsets as both companies have launched various chipsets that are compatible with their processor only.
You cannot use an Intel motherboard to run an AMD processor and vice versa otherwise you will run into compatibility issues and your PC will not turn on.
This is why not all motherboards are compatible with every processor socket type out there. For instance, some of the most commonly used Intel chipsets are H611, Z690, Z790, etc.
If you are planning on running an Intel processor then you should go for a board with these chipsets. On the other hand, AMD processors are compatible with the X570, B450, X670, B550, etc.
Intel chipsets support the processor sockets such as the LGA 1151 which supports the seventh generation of Intel processors only. There are many other Intel-exclusive processor sockets as well but we will discuss them some other time.
Meanwhile, AMD has recently introduced the AM5 processor socket type which supports the newer 7000 series, processor family.
Some higher end chipsets come with additional features such as more PCIe lanes that lower-end chipsets don’t offer.
RAM and DIMM slots
The amount of RAM you will need depends on whether the motherboard supports that amount of RAM. Modern motherboards come equipped with 2-8 DIMM (Dual Inline Memory Module) slots depending on the form factor of the board.
Currently, motherboards are capable of running DDR5 RAM and the sweet spot for RAM is 16 Gigs as this amount of RAM is capable of running most gaming titles.
Although, even 16 GB might be on the lower side when it comes to content creation apps as the PC starts to lag when doing 4K to 8K rendering.
It is recommended that you run dual-channel RAM sticks using the RAM slots on your motherboard for the best performance.
Most ATX motherboards come with four DIMM slots capable of running 128 GB of DDR4 or DDR5 RAM which is overkill for running even the most demanding apps.
The motherboard connects the brain of the PC, the CPU, with the rest of the components through expansion slots or as it’s known in the tech world Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) slots.
Graphics cards, sound cards, networking cards, fast-speed storage devices, along with many other components are connected to the motherboard through these PCIe slots. A PCIe slot is one of the most important slots found on the motherboard.
Currently, most motherboards are equipped with PCIe 4.0 slots, with PCIe 5.0 slots coming in with newer motherboards due to the release of the AMD 7000 series processors and Intel 13th generation.
The generation of the PCIe slots dictates the speed of the connection as well as its size. Currently, x1, x4, x8, and x16 slot sizes are being used so you need to be well aware that you have enough slots onboard to take care of your present as well as future needs.
Make sure that you have ample space around these slots to fit all your components on the motherboard, so you don’t need to change it later due to a lack of space.
The GPU is responsible for outputting the display of your PC so you can see how the instructions that you have input are executed for instance running an app. This means that you need to be aware of the type of GPU you will be buying and whether the motherboard supports it or not.
Intel and AMD both have launched processors into the market that come with integrated graphics cards, Intel has named the processors normally.
While an AMD processor that contains a built-in graphics unit on the processor is known as an APU (Accelerated processing unit). They are great for performing basic tasks which don’t require a lot of graphical processing power.
If you will be running resource-intensive apps that require a lot of graphical processing power then you will need a discrete graphics card that will be able to meet those needs. You should be aware of the kind of GPU your motherboard will support.
Most modern GPUs perform the best when connected in the 16 PCIe lanes slot as they will give you the maximum throughput. Moreover, a discrete graphics card requires a PCIe 3.0 slot at least.
Smaller GPUs can be powered by the 75 watts of power that the PCIe slot provides while bigger GPUs require 8-pin to 12-pin connectors directly from the power supply.
Make sure you compare the PCIe slots requirements on the GPU with the motherboard manual and know the number of slots it comes with.
You can also hook in multiple GPUs together provided that you get enough space between the slots and a compatible motherboard. Although some motherboards come with HDMI ports too which let
The PC needs storage drives where you can store your data as well as the operating system. The recommended combination of storage devices that you should plug into your PC is having an NVMe or SSD to store your Operating system and apps, and an HDD or multiple HDD to store your data which takes a lot of space.
The motherboard comes with storage connections such as a SATA (Serial ATA) port which lets you connect your storage to your PC.
The SSDs (Solid state drives) are more expensive as they provide fast storage, while HDDs are cheaper since they are slower than the SSDs. Make sure you get a motherboard with multiple SATA 6.0 ports so you can hook in either SSDs or HDDs.
If you choose to go for an NVMe storage drive it will connect directly with your motherboard through one of the PCIe slots and be able to access the PCIe lanes making data transmission all the faster.
You can connect more storage drives to your PC later on so make sure you choose a motherboard that has enough ports to compensate for whenever you choose to hook in more storage.
The majority of the ways that you can hook in pc components such as CPU, RAM, GPU, storage drives, etc. But there are still other connections that can be found on the motherboard, such as a sound module that contains an audio port at the rear end of the motherboard along with the USB ports.
The higher-end motherboards come with a USB C port as well located in the rear IO panel. They also come with built in wi fi modules and usually have more SATA ports into which you can connect SATA SSDs and HDDs. They also come with other premium features such as a high-quality audio module although you can use the PCIe slots to hook in a sound card that will fulfill that purpose as well.
You also get an Ethernet port with the newer motherboard models whereas you had to hook in a network card in an old motherboard using an expansion slot. Most motherboards of the older generation needed expansion cards to connect additional gear but the newer ones have integrated these features onboard as part of the package.
Companies such as Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, ASRock, etc have flooded the market with motherboards. It can be quite hectic for the average user to make an informed motherboard choice and it can become quite overwhelming at times when choosing a motherboard since many motherboards are fulfilling the same purpose.
Here is a general guide that you can utilize:
First off start off with the platform and CPU, then you need to decide the socket type and the chipset.
Then you need to know how much space you have on hand and then choose the form factor. I recommend going for an ATX motherboard as that has ample space to host all the features you would need in a well-rounded PC build as a smaller form factor motherboard will have fewer expansion slots and fewer features.
Next up is how many slots for Random access memory (RAM) you need, as mentioned above 16GB to 32 GB is the sweet spot right now. So go for a motherboard that has four memory slots and get yourself the memory modules that are compatible with the motherboard.
Next up are the storage options that a motherboard supports, the recommended storage combination for storage drives is to get an SSD (Solid State Drive) for your OS and apps and HDD or multiple HDDs to store your data.
You can use the internal connectors of the board to connect the drives and even connect external storage late on.
You need to also be aware of the connectivity options that your chosen motherboard has such as USB 3.2 ports and USB C ports, audio ports, built-in wi-fi, etc. USB C ports and built-in Wifi modules are high-end features that come in motherboards which are usually on the expensive side, although the exceptions are there.
Although you can add these features on a motherboard that doesn’t have these built-in using expansion cards why not go for a motherboard which already has these since you will be spending extra anyways?
Also, another important tip that most new PC enthusiasts ignore which isn’t related to motherboards is they choose to ignore the power supply requirements of their new PC so make sure you factor those into the equation as well.
I hope this guide has given you enough points on what to look for when researching the internet to buy a new motherboard for your PC build. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to us.