After choosing a CPU, you will usually choose a motherboard to go with it as the next part of your build. Motherboards are notoriously confusing pieces of work and might be the trickiest component to select when building your computer. It is arguably a PC’s most important component; nothing else works without it, and it determines your future upgrades.
But what makes a motherboard a good motherboard? Suppose this is your first time building a PC. What makes a good motherboard isn’t immediately apparent, and there’s a seemingly endless amount of different models out there, many of which are very similar in price and features.
A motherboard does not directly affect the performance of the software or a game. Instead, it directly affects the quality and version of the components installed. However, depending on your budget, a motherboard with excessive features may be bad for you if you never utilize its high-end features.
But the good thing is, it is generally hard to go too wrong when choosing a motherboard for a new gaming PC if you check compatibility (we’ll get to that) and do a little digging in terms of professional (not consumer) reviews.
What Makes a Motherboard a Good Motherboard?
A combination of features and specs makes a motherboard good or bad, depending on your needs and budget. But generally, the components and their version song with various other bells and whistles make a motherboard good or bad.
As you decide on the right motherboard, you’ll want to ensure that it meets your needs both today and tomorrow. Following that, we will discuss what makes a motherboard good.
1. Form Factor
The form factor of your motherboard impacts several aspects of the motherboard’s design and cooling, as well as the size of the case you need and the number of expansion slots you will have to use. Most of the time, builders can use more DIMM, full-size PCIe, and M.2 slots with larger form factors.
There are variations here, but generally, the more components a motherboard can support, the bigger it is. Not all cases endorse all form factors, so you will need to ensure that your motherboard and case are compatible.
Common desktop motherboard form factors are:
- The existing standard for full-size motherboards is ATX (12″ 9.6″). A typical consumer ATX motherboard has seven expansion slots spaced 0.7” inches apart and four memory (DIMM) slots.
- Extended ATX or eATX (12″ x 13″): A larger version of the ATX form factor designed for enthusiasts and professional use, these boards provide extra space for flexible component configurations.
- Micro ATX (9.6″ 9.6″): A smaller version of the ATX form factor with 2 full (16) expansion slots as well as 4 DIMM slots. Compatible with the mounting holes of bigger ATX cases even though it fits into mini-towers.
- Mini-ITX (6.7″ 6.7″): Small form factor suitable for usage in small PCs without fan cooling. Typically offers one full-size PCIe slot and two DIMM slots. Mounting holes are once again ATX-compatible.
2. GPU support
All computers must be able to output data visually (displaying graphics on a screen) that people can interpret. In a normal PC, this is done by the GPU, and you must ensure that your motherboard is compatible with the type of GPU you want. To check the compatibility of your GPU with the motherboard, you can use online free tools like PC Builder and BuildMyPC.
Some Intel Core CPUs include GPUs that give the means to show output to a monitor, and AMD’s accelerated processing unit (APU) combines a CPU and a GPU on a single chip. These relatively low-powered GPUs are suitable for typical productivity tasks and only allow for less graphically intensive games (like e-sports titles).
If you want a more powerful GPU for gameplay or more demanding applications, such as video editing, that may use a GPU’s faster processing, you will likely want a standalone GPU. In this situation, you will need to be aware of which Graphics card you can connect to the motherboard, as well as the maximum number of Graphics cards your motherboard can handle.
Choosing between an HDD with spinning platters that store information and a solid-state drive (SSD) that stores data in considerably faster flash memory is vital. HDDs are normally affordable for more storage space, whereas SSDs are pricier but offer increased speed and are ideal for storing applications and operating systems.
SATA, or serial ATA, is the most common storage connection today. SATA is in its third generation, and SATA 3.0 is a connection that offers a maximum transfer rate of six gigabits per second (Gb/s). This relates to read and write rates of up to 600 MB/s for SATA SSDs and typically much less than 150 MB/s for HDDs.
Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) work with SATA 3.0 connections, and a motherboard may have more than one SATA port. SATA revision 3.2 employs an M.2 form factor.
NVM Express, or NVMe, which connects over the PCIe bus, is a storage connection method that is gaining popularity. This more recent protocol offers higher bandwidth, lower power consumption, and reduced latency, among other benefits. Present-day NVMe SSDs can theoretically achieve read and write rates of over 3GB/s and 1.5GB/s, respectively. NVMe solid-state drives are available in two form factors: cards that plug into PCIe slots and tiny versions that plug into M.2 connectors.
4. RAM (Random Access Memory)
The next part is RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory. The type and amount of RAM you can have will depend on the motherboard you buy. So, this is something to think about before deciding to buy a motherboard. We suggest getting a motherboard with at least 16 GB of memory, even if you do not plan to buy that much. You can always use this memory later.
You should also search for a motherboard with at least four memory slots. This enables you to begin with the installation of two RAM modules, and you will still have room for memory upgrades.
In addition to size, there are various generations of RAM, referred to commonly as DDR. The most recent version of desktop memory is DDR5 which provides a faster base speed and supports modules with greater storage capacity. Intel’s most recent Alder Lake motherboards utilize DDR5 memory, whereas AMD’s third-generation Ryzen only supports DDR4. AMD will introduce DDR5 compatibility to its Zen 4 chips, including Ryzen 7000 series processors.
5. PCI Slots
A PCI slot is a connector or connection found on the motherboard. They have been the typical sort of expansion slot for years and permit the connection of expansion cards. Depending on how you intend to use the computer, you will need to examine if your motherboard offers the appropriate expansion slots.
If you’re a gamer, you will need at least one full-speed PCI Express x16 slot. If you want to connect more than one card, you will need more than one of these slots. Motherboards also have standard PCI slots and fairly small PCI express slots for other cards like sound cards, Wi-Fi adaptors, and other connectivity upgrades.
A decent motherboard, for example, includes USB ports of the latest generation on the back panel and USB headers for connecting the USB ports to the front panel of the PC case.Currently, USB 3.2 Gen 22 is the fastest USB version. The transport rate is approximately 20 Gbps. Typical USB 3.0 transfer rates are approximately 5 Gbps. USB Gen 3.2 Gen 22 is only available in Type-C configuration.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a motherboard in a PC?
The motherboard brings all of the computer’s parts together in one place and lets them talk to each other. Without it, computer components such as the CPU, GPU, and hard drive could not communicate. Complete motherboard functionality is required for a computer to perform properly.
Why are expensive motherboards better?
More expensive motherboards will have more stages of power delivery as well as greater cooling for the VRMs that regulate the CPU voltage. So, if you want the best performance from your computer’s parts, you should buy a more expensive motherboard.
How many years can a motherboard last?
A motherboard can live up to 20 years or more if it is treated with care and kept clean. The hardware that works with that motherboard will become outdated, and you may need to upgrade, but the motherboard itself should still work.
Can a motherboard be repaired?
When this occurs, many laptop users feel they need to purchase a new device. However, there are numerous instances in which a motherboard can be easily fixed. In some cases, you may be able to change the motherboard without changing any of the other parts. This will save you a lot of money.
Therefore, there is no common answer to the question of what makes a motherboard good motherboard. There is a variety of factors that impact the motherboard’s overall quality.
However, if you are on a limited budget, most of a motherboard’s premium features will only matter a little. If you had a list of specifications to choose from for a motherboard and you chose all of them, a motherboard could cost $1,000 or more.
However, we know that most individuals still need to have such a budget. Therefore, choosing only the qualities important to you would make a motherboard suitable for you in this case.
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