Motherboard is the backbone of your computer you will build. It determines what you can do and what you can’t. With the right knowledge about motherboards, building your PC is easier and future frustrations will be avoided. So, what factors and features should you consider when buying a motherboard?
Before you buy a motherboard, you should determine first the use of the PC you are building. Is it for gaming, workstation, or just an office PC. Then you can now choose the processor whether it is Intel or AMD, that suits the purpose of your PC. We suggest you select the latest model of the processor available as it will dictate what type of motherboards are compatible for your selected processor.
After you have selected what platform you will build and the processor you will buy, one of the most important thing to consider is the chipset. Chipset dictates what processors are compatible, and what you can do with it. CPU socket can have different versions of chipset, for example Intel socket 1151 has Z370, H110, B250 chipset, and so on. Although it they’re the same socket, you can’t put every socket 1151 processor in chipset H110. Newer chipsets are usually compatible with the latest processors, but not to older processors. But for AMD socket AM4, they make their older chipsets compatible with newer processors through BIOS update.
There are also chipsets that are designed for specific type of processors. For example the Intel Z370 chipset allows overclocking for Intel unlocked processors, or the K version of the processor, Intel i7-8700K for example. You can still put an i7-8700K on a H370 motherboard but you will not be able to overclock it because H370 chipset does not support overclocking. So if you want to avoid the hassle of updating the BIOS and frustrations on unsupported features, make a thorough research and buy the motherboard with the latest chipset compatible for your selected processor.
Size or Form Factor
Motherboard size, or form factor, also determines what you can do and put into your PC. There are three common form factors of the motherboard for desktop PC, these are ATX, micro-ATX, and mini-ITX. ATX is the largest, usually has four RAM slots, more SATA and USB ports, and more m.2, PCI, and PCI-E slots. Micro-ATX is the middle ground, usually has 2 to 4 RAM slots, less PCI-E slots, less SATA and USB ports than ATX. Mini-ITX has the least slots and ports out of the three. This is designed to compact and portable.
Form factor also determines the size of the case you can buy. You can put a mini-ITX motherboard in a micro-ATX case, but not an ATX motherboard.
Having two RAM slots is not really a big deal nowadays as latest motherboards can support up to 16GB of RAM into a single RAM slot, and that’s more than enough for day-to-day computing tasks and games. If you are in a budget you can can put a single 8GB RAM then add another 8GB later. However, if you are building a desktop workstation, 16GB is borderline minimum, so you would want more RAM slots for future upgrades.
Having durability features like locking bracket for PCI-E and RAM slots, anti-moist, and ESD protection makes the motherboard last longer than those that doesn’t have these features. Heatsinks on chipsets and MOSFETS also helps for the stability and longevity of the motherboard especially when overclocking. These additional components and features adds to the cost of the motherboard, and don’t expect all of these on budget motherboards.
Another thing to consider when buying a motherboard are the ports. Look for the ports that most likely you would use most often, or specific port for the kind of PC you will build. This might be USB Type-C, Thunderbolt, wi-fi, 7.1 audio, or dual-LAN port.
Finally, the price. You can’t buy what you can’t. Select the best motherboard that is within your allocated price. Expensive motherboards are not always the best fit for the type of system you will build.