A motherboard is the backbone of a computing device, as it links all its components together for coordinated interaction. Therefore, essentially, all components plug into this hub. When switching on the computer, the motherboard finds the components, runs them, and retains the overall performance at a steady pace.
Despite being such an important part, the motherboard is often ignored when it comes to buying the best computer. But, choosing the right motherboard for your computer can be a daunting affair. The sheer diversity of models and features is sufficient to bewilder even the keenest buyer.
Well, it is not necessary to face this if you keep these factors in mind while choosing a motherboard. Below are the main aspects you should consider.
To make it easy to assess motherboards, consider splitting them into categories. Some of the common categories are as follows:
- Cheap: These motherboards are cheap in terms of price and are for older CPUs. Consider them for building or buying an inexpensive computer.
- Intermediate: These models are in between cheap and high-end motherboards. It is easy to spot a CPU and motherboard combo in this category. This allows having an affordable machine for office or home use.
- High-end: These models are for those who are looking for the best gaming motherboards. They are designed for fulfilling multimedia requirements by handling modern chips at maximum speed.
- Extreme: These models are the most expensive because their features are also special and incomparable. For instance, they have a dedicated cooling system or additional memory slots.
Once you know the type of motherboard you want, it becomes time to assess the models within your chosen category by exploring their features/specifications.
While motherboards are available in different sizes, there are broadly six size options. Of them, the most common one is the Advanced Technology Extended (ATX) from Intel. Other common sizes range from Micro to Extended ATX and Workstation ATX (WATX).
The motherboard’s form factor defines its size, screw placements, hole locations, and other aspects. It helps in deciding whether the motherboard model will fit inside a specific case or not.
For the past two decades, most computers have motherboards of ATX or MicroATX size. The latter fits into an ATX or MicroATX case, while the former only into an ATX case. Therefore, it is essential to know which size fits your case.
The size directly determines the number of features available. For instance, a smaller motherboard may only offer two memory slots.
Choosing a motherboard ideally first involves selecting a CPU as per the usage and budget. Processors are available in different socket types. For instance, some Intel models support the widest processor range, from Celeron to i7.
The fact is that each new processor generation can come with a new socket. For those who are looking forward to a full build, it is essential to look for the right processor sockets that reside evenly on the motherboard.
If a processor does not go well on the motherboard, it is impossible to use. Therefore, we suggest choosing a processor prior to choosing a motherboard.
Chipsets are the key parts of a motherboard and help all components in interacting with each other for a computer to function smoothly. A chipset is usually a blend of northbridge and southbridge components.
Northbridge takes care of communication between the CPU, GPU, and RAM. It is where you have features such as DDR4. The latest CPUs come with these abilities, which reduces the overall functional complexity.
On the other hand, southbridge offers connectivity features like USB and SATA. Do check these features to ensure that it has all wanted features. Not every motherboard gives all connectivity.
A few chipsets support surround sound and integrated graphics, which eliminates the need to look for a sound or graphics card. Some chipsets have additional PCI express lanes to handle more graphics cards. Therefore, it is best to check the chipset features and proceed.
Expansion Slots and RAMs
Choosing a motherboard also means choosing the type and number of expansion slots to use. It also means choosing the number of RAM slots. It is also essential to check their placement to make sure that they are not congested.
With some smart research, you can easily choose a motherboard that improves the overall performance of your computer. Consider asking questions to those in forums and PC communities to compare a few promising models.