If you are looking to build your PC or buy a pre-built PC that you might want to expand or upgrade later on, then there is a component that will serve as your foundation. That component is the motherboard, and it’s an incredibly important piece of the PC puzzle. It determines many of the other components that you will be able to choose from and at the same time, some other options, such as the processor that you will use in your new PC, determine which motherboard you can use.
After choosing a CPU, an add-on motherboard will usually be the next component you select to build. Let’s walk through your motherboard selection in a few (relatively) easy steps.
However, before we start, here is some great advice. One way to make your decision easier is to use Newegg’s compare feature. If you go to the Newegg motherboard page, you can select up to five motherboards and receive a detailed view of how they stack up in terms of many of the topics covered in this tutorial.
What is a baseboard?
A motherboard is a system board that creates a kind of backbone that allows a variety of components to communicate and provides different connectors for components like the central processing unit (CPU), the processing unit graphics (GPU), memory, and storage. Most of the computers being made today, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, use motherboards to tie everything together, but the only ones you will typically buy yourself are the ones that are made to desktop computers.
If you look at the motherboard from top to bottom, you will see a collection of circuits, transistors, capacitors, slots, connectors, heat sinks, and more that combine to route signals and power through the PC and allow you to connect all the necessary components. . It is a complicated product and many of the technical details are beyond the scope of this tutorial. However, some of these details are important to your purchasing decision and we will describe them below.
As you decide on the correct motherboard, you’ll want to make sure it fits beyond your original configuration, then you can choose a motherboard that provides exactly what you need to get going. But if you think you might want to expand your PC later on, then you want to make sure your motherboard meets your needs as they grow. You need both today and tomorrow. If you know you never want to update your PC
Perhaps the first decision you need to make is which CPU you want to serve as the brain of your PC, which means choosing between two companies: Intel and AMD. Both offer CPUs that range from entry-level options good enough for web browsing, productivity, and low-end gaming to ultra-powerful beasts that can cut through video editing projects and run today’s most demanding games at high frames. per second (FPS). Both companies are constantly updating their products, so this information can become out of date very quickly. However, at the time this tutorial was written, Intel is in its 9th gen CPU and AMD has recently introduced its Zen 2 architecture, with Zen 3 expected soon, and 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs.
Which one is right for you will depend on your needs, for example, if you are more concerned with applications that can use multiple processor cores or if you are more concerned with games that are They benefit from the simpler faster -core performance. After you’ve decided which CPU is best for you, you’ll need to choose a motherboard that uses the correct socket and chipset. A processor socket is a mechanism through which a CPU is firmly connected to a motherboard. A chipset is software and hardware on the motherboard that is combined to allow all components to communicate.
Motherboards come in different sizes, which means you have some flexibility in building your PC to suit your environment. If you have a lot of space, you may want to use a full-size tower case, while if you are building a Home Theater PC (HTPC) that needs to be placed under your family room TV, you probably want a lot. smallest case.
This is why motherboards come in various sizes or form factors, and these standards define not only the size of the motherboard but also the number of components they typically support. There are variations on the latter, but generally speaking, the larger the physical size of the motherboard, the more components it will support. Not all cases support all form factors, so you’ll want to make sure your motherboard and case match.
Motherboards can connect a variety of components in addition to the CPU, including graphics cards, sound cards, network cards, storage devices and connections, and many others. There have been many types of expansion ports over the years, but thankfully things have gotten a lot simpler. Today, it will primarily deal with Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) ports, and some motherboards also include PCI slots for legacy devices.
PCIe is the most important port and the one you will use today to connect most of your components. There are four sizes of PCIe slots, and the latest commonly used standard is PCIe 3.0, with PCIe 4.0 available on the latest Ryzen and Intel Comet Lake compatible boards. These four sizes dictate both the performance of the connection and its size; you’ll want to make sure you have enough expansion slots and that they are the right size to meet all of your present and future needs.
The four slot sizes are x1, x4, x8, and x16, with x4 and x16 being the most common. Motherboards vary greatly in the number of slots they include and also in their location. You will need to ensure that you have enough slots and that they have enough space around to fit all the necessary components.
A GPU on a motherboard, with liquid cooling All PCs need a way to generate information in a visual format that humans can use. In its simplest terms, that means displaying images on a monitor. The component that performs this function in a typical PC is the graphics card or GPU, and you will need to ensure that your motherboard supports the type of GPU that you need for its intended uses. Some Intel Core CPUs come with integrated GPUs that provide the means to display the output to a monitor, and AMD has its version of the same called an accelerated processing unit (APU) that combines a CPU with a GPU in the same package.
These are relatively low-powered GPUs that are great for regular productivity tasks, but only support less graphically demanding games. If you need a more powerful GPU, be it for gaming or for more demanding applications like video editing that can make use of a GPU for faster processing, you probably want a separate GPU. In that case, you’ll want to consider what types of GPUs you can connect to your motherboard, and even how many GPUs your motherboard can support.
Your CPU needs a place to store information while your PC is on and running. That’s called “Random Access Memory” or RAM, and today PCs are typically equipped with at least 4GB of RAM. The amount of RAM you need for your PC depends on how you plan to use it, and 8GB is usually a safe recommendation for most lighter users, with 16GB or more being a good bet for heavier users.
Today’s RAM connects to a motherboard through a rectangular slot named after the type of RAM in use today: the dual in-line memory module (DIMM). The number of DIMM slots on a motherboard determines the amount of RAM you can add and typically ranges from two to eight slots. You can add one RAM module at a time, but you will get the best performance when you install RAM in matching pairs.
Capacity ranges from 1GB DIMMs to 128GB DIMMs, the latter of which are extremely expensive and generally purchased for use in servers. Most consumer PCs will be equipped with a total of 4GB to 64GB, and RAM is generally purchased in kits of two or four DIMMs. For example, if you want to equip your PC with 16GB of RAM, you would normally buy a kit with two 8GB DIMMs or four 4GB DIMMs.
When selecting your motherboard, make sure it has enough slots, that it can support all the RAM you have planned to configure, and that it can support the fastest RAM you want to buy. At the same time, you will want to think about how to buy your RAM. For example, if you want to start with 8GB of RAM and then grow to 16GB, and your motherboard has four DIMM slots, then you’ll want to start with a kit of two 4GB DIMMs and not a kit of four 2GB DIMMs, as that will It will allow you to add another kit later and avoid being left with unused RAM.
To use your PC, you will need a place to store the operating system, applications, and data when it is turned off. Today that means choosing between a hard disk drive (HDD) with turntables that store data and solid-state drives (SSD) that store data in much faster flash memory. HDDs are usually less expensive to have more storage space, while SSDs are more expensive but offer additional speed and are great for storing the operating system and applications. There are a few main storage connectors to consider when purchasing your motherboard. That includes both the types of connections and the number of connections you will have to add storage to your PC. Some of these connections are internal and some are external.
The most common storage connection today is Serial ATA or SATA. SATA is in its third revision and SATA 3.0 is a connection that provides a transfer rate of up to six gigabits per second (Gb / s). That translates to up to 600 megabytes per second (600MB / s) in reading and write speeds for SATA SSDs, and typically significantly less than 150MB / s in reading and write speeds for HDDs. You can buy HDD and SDD that support SATA 3.0 connections, and motherboards can contain multiple SATA ports. There are variations of SATA 3.X that provide faster speeds and slightly different connections, including SATA revision 3.2 that uses an M.2 form factor.
An increasingly common type of storage connection is NVM Express, or NVMe, which connects over the PCIe bus. This is a newer protocol that offers higher bandwidth, lower power consumption, lower latency, and other benefits. Today’s common NVMe SSDs can provide theoretical speeds of more than 3GB / s read and 1.5GB / s write. NVMe SSDs come in two form factors, cards that plug into PCIe slots and compact versions that plug into M.2 connections.
We’ve covered several different ways of connecting components to a motherboard, including PCIe, DIMM slots, and storage connections. There are a host of other connection types that motherboards can support today, and once again, you’ll want to consider your needs very carefully when selecting a motherboard.
Additionally, some connections are located directly on the motherboard and inside the case and are sometimes intended to connect to ports on the front, top, side, or rear of the case. You’ll also want to consider which ports your case supports and make sure your motherboard provides the necessary internal connections. Motherboards also have externally accessible connections on a rear input/output (I / O) panel that fits in a generally standard location on the back of a case.
Motherboard connections to know
Some connections are located directly on the motherboard and inside the case and are sometimes intended to connect to ports on the front, top, side, or back of a case, as well as other internal and external components. You’ll need to consider which ports your case supports and make sure your motherboard provides the necessary internal connections, and the same goes for other additions. These connections include a variety of built-in headers that are used to support items such as fans, external USB ports, RGB lighting systems, and a variety of manufacturer-specific proprietary products.
This is something you will want to check carefully as you select components for your new PC. For example, your case may have multiple USB ports that require multiple internal USB headers. And some water cooling systems require specific headers to connect to the software that controls the lighting and thermal sensors. You will need to ensure that a motherboard includes all the necessary headers to support all these types of add-on components and chassis features.
Think of it this way. The more complex your new PC is, the more you will have to dig into your motherboard choice. Nowhere is this more true than in regards to the types of connections that are present on a motherboard compared to the various components you’ll need to add.
The following are some of the common connections on modern motherboards. Not all motherboards have all of these connections, and you will find others as well. The important thing is to make sure your choice of motherboard has all the connections you need.
Now that you have identified what type of motherboard you will need to build your specific PC, or which should serve as the basis for that PC pre On the build that you are about to buy, you will want to give some thought to its manufacturer. Some companies are focused on providing motherboards aimed at gamers, with plenty of room to add GPUs and with LED light systems, while others focus on more conventional systems.
Some of the best-known motherboard manufacturers are ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock. You can see the different options from those companies, as well as others, on the Newegg motherboard page.