Perhaps no component is more influential on the quality of your computer than your motherboard. Sure, components like your processor and memory determine how fast your system runs, however, the quality of your processor and memory (and every other components for that matter) is directly proportional to the quality of your motherboard.
Since the motherboard is the central hub for all of your computer components, choosing a high quality motherboard will allow you to choose components that are also high quality. If you choose a low quality motherboard for your computer, you will likely be limited in the kinds of components you can choose. Obviously, the more you spend on your motherboard, the more features and the better board you will get.
It’s also important to note that different motherboards are suited for different tasks. A high-end motherboard would work great in a performance gaming computer, but would be overkill in a moderate office PC. Finding the right motherboard for your needs is important so that you don’t waste money.
In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the factors you should consider when choosing a motherboard for your computer. And, I’ll give you a quick and easy three-step buying guide that will help you separate a winning board from one that will likely give you problems.
Different Factors to Consider When Choosing a Motherboard
There are a few different factors to consider when choosing a motherboard. You’re going to need to know what size of motherboard will work best for your computer. You’re also going to need to know what socket your motherboard will need to have in order to accommodate your processor. And, finally, you’ll need to know what kind of chipset will give you the kind of features you need.
Generally, there are three different motherboard sizes that will make sense for your build. They are:
Standard-ATX motherboards are the standard size, Micro-ATX boards are a little smaller, and Mini-ITX boards are even smaller yet. The size difference in boards is illustrated below:
Besides the obvious difference between the three traditional motherboard form factors, which is their size, the motherboards also differ in functionality. Because the Standard-ATX board is the biggest board, it can offer more features. For instance, a Standard-ATX board is going to have more PCIe ports, more USB slot, and more SATA ports. And, the Micro-ATX is going to offer more features than a Mini-ITX board.
Where the Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX boards gain an advantage over the Standard-ATX board, is that they are much more versatile in the towers they can be placed in. Micro-ATX boards can be placed in pretty much any size computer case, from a full tower, all the way down to a Micro-ATX case. However, the only real reason to choose one of these smaller boards is if you are building or upgrading a computer with a smaller case.
Basically what your decision comes down to is what you want your computer to do. If you want a high performance computer and you want to have the option to upgrade in the future, then you should get a Standard-ATX board. If you’re just building a home PC for simple tasks, or you’re upgrading your old system and you don’t want to spend a ton of money, a Mico-ATX board may be what you need. If you want a really small computer that is easy to move around, you might want to build around a Mini-ITX board.
Once you know what size motherboard you want, you’ll next want to pick out a motherboard that can accommodate the processor you want. This can be achieved by looking at the socket type on both the motherboard and the processor.
For example, an Intel Core i5-3570k LGA 1155 Quad-Core Processor would be compatible with an ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard. You can tell that they are compatible because the processor fits inside of an LGA 1155 socket, and the motherboard has the LGA 1155 socket.
Another example–for AMD processors–is that an AMD FX-8320 Eight-Core Black Edition AM3+ Processor would be compatible with a GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard. In this case, the AM3+ signifies the socket. Additionally, AMD processors that are coded as AM3 (without the ‘+’) can fit in both AM3 and AM3+ sockets.
In the end, the best way to find the socket of your processor and motherboard is to just check the product specifications. 100% of the time the socket will be listed on product’s box, or sales page.
In the simplest of terms, a motherboards chipset is going to tell you what kind of features that board comes with. Basically, a motherboards chipset will dictate the speed in which your components are able to communicate with each other, and it will dictate what kinds of PCIe and USB ports you have. (i.e. PCIe 3.0, or USB 3.0.)
Additionally, a motherboards chipset will dictate whether or not you can overclock your processor. Overclocking is common among gamers and others who need a high-performance computer. Essentially, overclocking your processor allows you to take your computer past it’s stock clock rate, which allows it to run faster and perform better (which of course means it also runs hotter and is therefore more risky). In order to overclock your processor, you need a motherboard that will allow you to do so.
All AM3 and AM3+ motherboards will allow you to overclock, but on Intel-based motherboards, you must get a Z75 or Z77 chipset in order to overclock your processor.
Choosing Your Motherboard
Now that you know what kind of factors to look at when purchasing a new motherboard for your computer, you are probably wondering how you can pick out a motherboard that is high quality. Of course, there is no surefire way of how to this because with computer components there is always the chance that you can get a bad component.
However, if you follow the following three guidelines when choosing a motherboard (or any other component for that matter) you will more than likely come away with a good component.
- Make sure the motherboard you are considering has received plenty of positive consumer reviews.
- Make sure the motherboard you are considering has received plenty of positive expert reviews.
- Make sure you are choosing a motherboard that is built by a reputable and trusted manufacturer.
If you use these three guidelines as criteria for choosing your motherboard, you will come away with a quality board.
The following is a list of some recommended motherboard manufacturers:
Your Motherboard is Important–Make Sure You Pick One That is High Quality
The chances are that you’re going to be using your computer for quite awhile. You can guarantee that you computer runs correctly and stays relevant for a good amount of time if you choose a quality motherboard now.
In the end, the motherboard is one of the most important components in your system and it alone dictates what other components you can use. The better motherboard you choose now, the easier it will be to make upgrades and changes in the future.