The Motherboard is the base on which your CPU and other components sit. It comprises the ports, pins, and sockets to connect every hardware that you are going to need.
When you want to build a working computer from scratch, the motherboard will no doubt be the first thing to assemble. In order to build a working PC, you need to make sure that the components and motherboards are compatible with each other.
Before you begin, you will need to assess the kind of RAM, CPU, GPU, and also storage units you want to use for your system. Your hardware components depend on the build, size, and type of motherboard. Apart from these, you must consider the purpose for which you are building the system. No one wants to spend more on extra features that they will barely use.
This article will guide you through each and every aspect that you need to consider in order to choose a motherboard.
Factors To Look For While Choosing a Motherboard
A motherboard has several features such as Chipset, expansion slots, networking, Bluetooth, display port, etc. inbuilt into it. It is necessary to have all or some of these features for a better functioning computer.
These factors are also a major consideration in choosing what kind of motherboard you like or, more importantly, you need. For instance, if you have an AMD CPU that uses a PGA socket but bought a CPU with an LGA socket, you will be left only with your hand on the head.
But what matters the most above all is your necessity and the purpose you are going to use the motherboard for.
Hence, it is necessary to scrutinize these factors carefully. Let’s not stall anymore and get straight to the details of these parameters.
The first thing you need to assess is the size of the motherboard while choosing it. The features present in the motherboard vary with its size or form factor. For instance, you cannot expect to have four RAM Slots in a motherboard of small size. It will just make the board congested and also increase thermal issues.
Similarly, the motherboard size directly affects the size of your CPU casing since you would need a big casing for a large board. So, you have to look into the size depending on your usage requirement.
If you want a system for normal browsing and streaming Netflix, and do not need many upgrades later, you can do it with a basic computer. As a result, you would not need more ports, or expansion slots for RAM, GPU, and other units. Hence, you can just choose a small board.
But the situation will be different if you are a heavy user. You might need to upgrade your system after a while or add more hardware to it, then you will need a motherboard with a bigger form factor.
The motherboard usually comes in the three most famous sizes; ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. ATX is the largest size at 12 x 9.6 inches and has up to 8 expansion slots and RAM slots.
Similarly, Micro-ATX has up to 4 expansion slots and has a size of 9.6 x 9.6 inches. The Mini-ITX is the smallest on the list having a 9.0 x 9.6 inches size with a single expansion slot.
Hence, it totally depends on the area where you keep your system, the number of hardware configurations you require, and your personal choice while choosing the motherboard’s size.
Processor and Socket
There are currently two popular CPU manufacturers; AMD and Intel. Both have developed excellent CPUs that can serve several purposes such as gaming, browsing, or computing.
If you have thought about what you will do with your PC, then you must have decided which CPU you are going to use. You might also already possess a CPU and are looking to get only a new motherboard.
However, you should know that not all processors are compatible with every motherboard. The processor’s surface has either a flat circuit or a varying number of pins incorporated into it. So, every set of processors requires a different socket to fit in the motherboard. Your 10th Gen Intel Core CPU will require an LGA 1200 socket, 1200 being the number of pins.
Hence, the choice of motherboard entirely depends on the type of processor you have or are going to buy. An Intel CPU has a flat surface with no pins on it and hence requires an LGA socket incorporating pins on it. Similarly, AMD CPUs have inbuilt pins directly on the processor and thus only work in a PGA socket that has holes to access the CPU pins.
The motherboards with BGA socket have a processor already fixed to it and so, we do not look after it often. You can easily find this information on the motherboard’s manual or their website. You have to look at the specification of your CPU and search the available motherboards for it.
A chipset is a bridge in the motherboard that connects the processor with all the other hardware in your system. It provides the buses and hubs that help the CPU to interact or control other subsystems and hardware you have expanded. These chipsets are designed such that only a fixed set of CPUs are compatible with them.
Hence, you will also have to look at the type of motherboard chipset your processor supports before choosing the board. Not only this, your chipset consists of information on how many expansion slots such as PCIe or RAM the motherboard will support. So, a higher-end motherboard chipset will have features that will let you upgrade the hardware later.
Similarly, modern chipsets determine whether you have onboard audio, Bluetooth, and networking features on the motherboard. These features might not be that necessary for you and can be added later by buying expansion hardware. But we suggest you stay on the safe side and save money later by considering these features in the chipset itself.
You will also have space to upgrade your CPU to newer models if you choose a higher-end chipset.
Furthermore, if you want to use your system for high-end gaming, then some chipsets such as Z390 can help you by providing overclocking features. Intel separates its chipset with Z-series, B-series, etc., and looking into these will help you know their features and CPU compatibility.
As we use our PC, the desire to upgrade it to higher capacity and newer models increases continuously. Therefore, it is highly necessary to review the availability of expansion slots in the motherboard that you can use to connect hardware to the system.
Let’s look at the various expansion slots that you need to consider.
One of the most important such ports is the PCIe slot which comes in four sizes; x 1, x 4, x 8, and x 16. Each slot has varying data transfer speed and you can add hardware such as a sound card, graphics card, or even a hard drive in them. You can also add a smaller PCIe card into the x 16 slot and it will just work fine.
You have to make sure that you have enough of these slots to add larger or smaller hardware to it. The graphics card is the most important hardware that necessitates a PCIe slot. If you are a gamer, then you need to make sure you have enough x 8 or x 16 slots to connect multiple dedicated GPUs if necessary.
Nowadays, the Non-volatile Memory Express or NVMe SSDs work via the faster PCIe slots.
M.2 & U.2 Slots
Similarly, you also need to look for smaller M.2 and U.2 slots which are alternatives for the larger PCIe and SATAe slots. The hardware can be directly attached to these slots without the need for cables. You can use expansion hardware of smaller sizes for these slots.
RAMs are the most essential component for the smooth functioning of a system. The more powerful the RAM, the faster will be your system while multitasking. The situation can be even better if you use two RAMs in two slots instead of one larger capacity RAM in a single slot.
For instance, your system will run programs much faster if you use two 8 GB RAM on two slots instead of one 16 GB RAM. Hence, with consideration of your future upgrade necessity, you should choose a motherboard that has more RAM slots. However, you can have a motherboard with less number of slots for RAM if you use it for simple work.
Most motherboards have slots ranging from 2 to 8 depending on the size of the board.
You can find SATA slots to connect your HDD, SSD or DVD Drives to the motherboard. These slots are quite slower than PCIe and M.2 slots. As we mentioned earlier, you can insert your SSD through PCIe slots nowadays.
However, if you use your system for heavy work, you would want an HDD along with your SSD to store larger files. In this case, you are going to be in need of a SATA drive. So, make sure you have some SATAe slots in the motherboard as well.
VRM and Cooling
VRM is a mini power supply unit on the motherboard that regulates the voltage to your CPU. It divides the power obtained from the PSU into several smaller parts and supply them to the CPU and sometimes, RAM using different MOSFETS, Chokes, and Capacitors combination.
If you are into gaming and overclocking, then choosing a motherboard with more VRM is crucial. During overclocking of the CPU, you provide higher power to it in order to run it at high speeds. Hence, a larger number of VRM will ensure a stable higher amount of voltage to the CPU.
Similarly, you will also need to look for better heat sinks and thermal designs to maintain the temperature of the VRM as well as the motherboard. An ATX motherboard will facilitate cooling due to its larger size. A larger motherboard will have more space for easy airflow and additional fans, and also consists of more heat sinks.
There are several ports in the motherboard to connect external hardware to them. A few of them are the VGA, HDMI, Display port, USB, Audio, LAN, etc.
You can connect a display unit through VGA. However, if you want to connect multiple monitors to your system, it would be better to have an additional HDMI or Display port alongside VGA. These ports are also faster and better for providing better display quality.
In the same way, you should look for the availability and type of USB ports to connect multiple devices and have a faster transfer rate. Generally, most motherboards provide both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports. Ensure that you have at least one USB 3.0 port for a better data transfer rate.
Similarly, you will have to assess what hardware you are going to need and look for the motherboard that has the functionality to connect those components in it.
You can tweak the settings of your motherboard through BIOS and some third-party applications. However, the interface is quite difficult in BIOS for most people.
Hence, You would love to change your motherboard and processor settings frequently and easily for overclocking, undervolting, boot options, etc. You can also easily update your BIOS through the software. These tasks would be helpful by the use of the software provided by the manufacturer that you can access while opening Windows.
So, if you are into these tweaks and modifications, then you should look for the motherboard that provides its own software.
Apart from looking at all these important factors, you need to observe some features on the motherboard that will make your work much easier and the board nicer.
You should look for a sister board which is basically the blueprint of all the circuits and connections on the motherboard. Similarly, you need to see if the peripherals are properly labeled inside. This will make your work easier while assembling and disassembling the connections on the board.
Similarly, over continuous usage, your motherboard is bound to get some issues. Most boards provide separate LED lights that glow in different colors to indicate what is wrong with them. For instance, a red LED light glowing on a CPU named indicator means your CPU is either undetected or has some fault. These LEDs save your time in diagnosing the problem.
Hence, you should see whether the motherboard comes with diagnostic LED lights.
Furthermore, you would obviously prefer a motherboard without the unmanaged jungle of cables on it. It is not only for aesthetic purposes but also for easy system management. You can find a motherboard that provides clips to properly arrange the cables. You can also get a board that has color-coded wires and RGB LED lighting to make it look cooler.
Besides, we advise you to look for jumpers and switches inside the motherboard that can help you to change the operation mode or reverse some features in the system. For instance, you can use a jumper to make the restart button work for powering up the desktop if your power button gets damaged somehow.
Everything comes down to the price at last. Everybody wants high-end, or high-class devices. However, it is not always that everyone can afford them.
So, you should look at your budget first. If you do not want your system for heavy work, then you can spend less and get a Micro-ATX board or the one with fewer features.
If you want the motherboard for gaming and still have a budget constraint, then you should look for the board that provides just sufficient functionality for the hardware and not excess.