How do you choose a motherboard?
Choose a motherboard
Every motherboard has exactly the same function, namely to control the components of your computer. Every model also has a slot for your processor, RAM, and video card. And yet, there are a lot of differences. Ask yourself the following:
- What brand should the chipset be? (Intel or AMD)
- Which socket and form factor should the motherboard have?
- How many slots should your motherboard have?
- Which inputs and outputs should your motherboard have?
- Are a good build quality and cooling important to you?
- Do you want fun extras or just the bare necessities?
Which brand should the chipset be? (Intel or AMD)
The first choice you make is between two different brands. You can distinguish this in the brand of the chipset and the brand of the motherboard. The chipset is the most important part of the motherboard. This controls the traffic between the different components of your computer. There are 2 brands that produce chipsets: Intel and AMD. Which one you choose also determines which brand of processor you need. Intel chipsets only support Intel processors and the same goes for AMD. Take a close look at the manual of your processor beforehand.
Which socket and form factor should your motherboard have?
Manufacturers such as Gigabyte, MSI, and ASUS buy up chipsets and turn them into a motherboard. The socket is the center of the motherboard, it's where you place your processor. The socket of the motherboard should be exactly the same as the socket of your processor. There are also many different sizes motherboards, also called form factors. The most common form factors, from large to small, are E-ATX, ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. You can add more PC components with a larger motherboard. Keep in mind that it still needs to fit in your computer case.
How many slots should your motherboard have?
A larger motherboard has more available slots for PC components. Do you want a computer with a lot of internal memory? Make sure you have enough RAM slots. Your computer will be faster and you can open more programs at the same time. Also look out for the PCIe x16 slots on a motherboard. These determine whether you can install a video card, which you need to game or watch movies. Do you want fast storage? Then look for M.2 connectors on your motherboard.
Which inputs and outputs should your motherboard have?
The processor, the RAM, and the video card are the most important components, but there are many more connectors on a motherboard. Most are located on the side of your motherboard. This is where you find the I/O panel. This communicates with all devices outside of the PC via USB and audio ports, for example. Look out for the connectors on the motherboard itself as well. For example, check if it has enough SATA ports for internal hard drives, PCIe x1 slots for network cards, and case fan connectors for fans.
Are a good build quality and cooling important to you?
If you pay more for a motherboard, you get more connection options. But this isn't the only thing you're paying for. For example, more expensive motherboards often have a better build quality. This could be in the shape of reinforced slots which don't bend as easily. In the higher segment, you also find better cooling. This ensures that your chipset and other components don't overheat. Built-in sensors can even notify you when your motherboard is getting too hot. This can be handy for the die-hard gamers among us.
Do you want fun extras or just the bare necessities?
Motherboards mostly have functions that are necessary to keep your computer running, but they can also have some fun extras. RGB LED lighting, for example. You choose which color the lights take on and in what pattern the light effects move. Match this to the rest of your computer setup to turn it into a unified whole. Some motherboards also have WiFi and Bluetooth, although a fanatical gamer will prefer a reliable LAN connection. Plenty of choice, anyway!