How to Choose the Right Motherboard for your Computer

 

When building a PC, choosing the right CPU is only half the battle, the next step is to choose the perfect motherboard to pair it with.

A motherboard is a printed circuit board (PCB) that acts as the backbone of your PC. Each and every component from your CPU down the RAM stick all connect to the motherboard and all communications between components are done through the motherboard.

For something as crucial as the motherboard you can't really afford to go wrong, choosing the right motherboard will not only make your PC run smoother but also decrease the chances of any problems occurring later down the road.

In this guide, we will help you make the right decision and choose the best motherboard according to your needs. So without further ado, let’s get into this!

PC shot style=

Table of contents

CPU Socket

Form Factor

Motherboard Ports

Networking Requirements

Check the I/O panel 

Overclocking

To Sum it All Up.

What’s Next?

    CPU Socket

    The first step in buying a motherboard is assessing your requirements, though your choice of your CPU will drive most of your decisions in regards to the motherboard, there are also other things to consider such as space and ports.

    One of the most important functions of the motherboard is flawless communication with your CPU; your motherboard has to work in perfect harmony with your CPU to be able to provide the best experience. 

    It all starts from the CPU socket on your motherboard, not all motherboards support all CPUs. Most CPUs need a specific socket on the motherboard to be installed on the said motherboard. This is even more of an issue with Intel CPUs which keep requiring different sockets, an example being Intel ditching the LGA 1151 socket in favor of the 10th gen CPUs, rendering older motherboards unusable with new CPUs (Honestly, why does Intel do that so much?).

    cpu socket style=

    Currently, Intel’s latest sockets required by Intel CPUs are LGA 1200 and LGA 1700, while LGA 1151 is still quite common. On the other hand, AMD is still sticking to its AM4 socket while a newer AM5 is expected later this year with their new CPU lineup.

    Here is a list of CPUs and their sockets along with the supported motherboard chipset:


    Socket

    Supported CPUs

    Chipsets


    LGA 1200


    10th-generation Intel Core


     Comet Lake (10th-gen): Z490


    LGA 1151


    8thand 9th- generation Intel Core


    Coffee Lake (8th-gen): H310, B360, H370, Q370, Z370
    Coffee Lake (9th-gen): Z390, B365, B360


    LGA 2066


    Skylake-X/Kaby-Lake X


    X299


    Strx4

    3rd-generation AMD Ryzen Threadripper


    TRX40


    Str4

    AMD Ryzen Threadripper


    X399


    AM4

    AMD Ryzen, 7th-generation A-Series, and Athlon

    A300, A320, B350, B450, X370, X470, X570


    So, If you're planning on or have already bought a 10th gen Intel processor, you should look for a motherboard with the LGA 1200 or 1700 socket, otherwise you're good with a motherboard with the LGA 1151 socket that is readily available on the market unless you have an even older CPU.


    Form Factor

    After deciding on the type of Socket you'll need on your motherboard, the next thing to consider is the form factor or simply, the size of the motherboard.

    Motherboards largely come in four sizes: Mini-ATX, micro-ATX, ATX and EATX.


    Mini-ITX:

    Size: 9 x 7.5 inches

    PCIe slots: 1

    RAM: DIMM

    GPUs capacity: 1

    SATA ports: up to 6

    Mini-ITX is the smallest PC motherboard you can get, it is usually used in very small PCs such as a PC for a home theater that will likely sit under a TV where there is a lack of space. Mini-ATX motherboards are usually used for PCs where performance isn't a priority but space-saving is, Mini-ATX motherboards can get the job done but with only a single PCIe slot and only two RAM slots, don't expect to build a high-spec PC using this motherboard.


    Micro-ATX 

    Size: 9.6 x 9.6

    PCIe slots: 4

    RAM: DIMM

    RAM slots: 4

    GPUs capacity: up to 3

    SATA ports: 8

    Micro-ATX is slightly larger than the mini-ATX motherboard but a tad more capable, it is used in smaller space-saving PCs. With four PCIe slots and four RAM slots it can be used to build a decent PC that can handle some heavy-weight performance, like casual gaming and graphic designing but it isn't the best motherboard you can get, especially if you're an enthusiast.


    ATX

    Size: 12 x 9.6 inches

    PCIe Slots: 7-8

    RAM: DIMM

    RAM slots: 4

    GPUs: up to 4

    SATA ports: 12

    ATX is the standard Motherboard size you see in most PCs, it has enough ports for any kind of use and with 7-8 PCIe slots it can handle everything from a power-hungry GPU to tons of RGB lights for enthusiasts. With four RAM slots, it can handle massive amounts of data to read and write. Also if a single GPU doesn't do it for you, you can install up to four GPUs on this motherboard. 

    ATX is the form factor you need if you plan on building a PC for hardcore gaming or some serious resource-heavy work. It will not only provide you with enough ports to install everything you need but will also offer flexibility for the future, so you can't really go wrong with this size. It's always better to have more than less, right?


    E-ATX

    There is also another form factor available, EATX ( Extended ATX). EATX motherboard is just slightly bigger than ATX, being only 3 inches wider than ATX meaning it can fit in many ATX-rated cases. The biggest difference between the two is the number of ports and individual components on the board being spread out more than the standard ATX motherboard. This is done to improve cooling.

    EATX motherboards are for enthusiasts who need extreme performance and are keen on overclocking components on their PC. Having eight RAM slots as compared to ATX's only four and with additional PCIe ports, EATX is an overkill.

    EATX is relatively more expensive than the widely available ATX motherboard and it is only worth the investment if you're a hardcore overclocker and your PC is bound to get very warm. The EATX motherboard has the best cooling capabilities out of the all aforementioned form factors and as a result, it runs faster. If you're a tech geek or want the best in the market regardless of the price then a good EATX motherboard will provide you with the liberty to install the most high-end components without worrying about ports or space.


    Motherboard Ports


    Picture this: after installing your motherboard, just as you go to plug that last connector in, before powering up your new PC, it dawns on you that you don't have enough ports on your motherboard; let’s just say it won't be one of the best moments of your life, to say the least. 

    To save yourself from that frustration, always plan ahead and keep the type and numbers of ports you might need for your motherboard in mind.


    PCIe Ports

    Thanks to modern leaps in technology you don't have to worry about a plethora of ports when looking for a motherboard, instead all you have to worry about are PCIe slots (peripheral component interconnect express). The most important component in your PC: the graphics card, will connect to the motherboard using these ports. This means that the number of PCIe ports that your motherboard has is crucial.

    PCIe ports come in many sizes: x1, x4, x8 and x16 though, x4 and x16 are the most common. PCIe 4.0 standard is the most common today but some recent AMD motherboards also support the newer and faster PCIe 5.0 that the newest GPUs support and upcoming GPUs probably will too. PCIe 4.0 does work with the current generation of GPUs but going forward PCIe 5.0 may become the standard.

    motherboard style=

    That said, whenever you're considering a motherboard make sure it has enough PCIe slots, for example if you're planning on using two GPUs, your motherboard should have at least 2 PCIe x16 slots.

    Another common issue faced by many is that due to the ever-increasing sizes and weights of modern GPUs, often PCIe slots can't handle the weight. So, make sure your motherboard can handle the weight of your GPU; one way of dealing with this problem is to buy a motherboard with reinforced PCIe slots.


    RAM Slots

    If you've already chosen the right RAM for your PC make sure your motherboard has enough slots to accommodate your RAM sticks. Also, never ignore the RAM generation supported by your motherboard.

    RAM SLOTS

    The latest RAM generation is DDR5 but DDR4 is more common. When buying a motherboard you should take into account the RAM generation it supports, as they are NOT interchangeable, a DDR3 RAM stick will not work on a DDR5 motherboard.

    If you don't already own a pair of RAM sticks then it is better to buy a DDR5 motherboard if you're willing to spend a little more. Not only will the DDR5 RAM work faster but it will future-proof your PC. If you're on a tight budget, a good DDR4-supported motherboard will do just fine.


    Storage Options

    Storage is an essential part of your PC. Your motherboard should be able to cater to your storage needs adequately. If you're like many users out there who use an HDD for storing large files and keep their OS on an SSD. Make sure that your motherboard has the number of required SATA ports.

    If you are planning on using an NVME SSD then your motherboard must have an M2 slot or your super-fast SSD will go to waste.

    network style=

     

    Networking Requirements

    Do you use Ethernet or Wi-Fi on your PC? Or do you plan on using Bluetooth devices?

    Then pay attention to the spec sheet of a motherboard that you might be considering, does it have all these options available?

    Most motherboards come with an Ethernet connector but many don't have either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity options. So, do confirm whether the motherboard you are considering has the options that you might require.


    Check the I/O panel 

    I/O shield style=

    This may sound trivial but do check the back I/O panel (Input/output panel) to confirm that the motherboard indeed has enough ports on the panel for you.

    Check each port closely as even a single audio jack being missing can ruin a good day for you when needed.


    Overclocking

    Lastly, if you're someone who will overclock their PC or plans to overclock it later down the road, make sure that you buy a motherboard that supports overclocking.

    All Intel motherboards with the letter "Z" in their name are overclockable e.g. Z170, while all AMD motherboards carrying the letter "B" or "X" in their name are overclockable e.g. B450, X370.

    Find out more details about overclocking here.


    To Sum it All Up.

    The motherboard is one the most important components of your PC, all the other components are tied to it. A good motherboard will not only get your PC to work better but it will also stop the rest of your components from getting damaged and extend the life of your whole system.

    It is very important that you make the right decision in this regard, don’t go for fancy features or catchy brands but look for practicality. Not all motherboards are made the same and not every motherboard is for everyone.

    Lastly remember, the best motherboard is the one that works best with the components present in your PC. So, compatibility is the most important feature that you need to look for!

    If you have any questions feel free to contact me, you can use the comments section below or a contact form.

    Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to share it with your friends and family!

     

    What’s Next?

    We have a few ideas on what articles we want to write in the coming weeks, we host polls on our Instagram Page to see what our community wants more articles on.

    For our next article, the community has settled on a piece about the Best AMD Motherboards.

     

    Let us know if you have any content suggestions below and let us know what you think of this article.

     


    Leave a comment

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.