A motherboard is usually the next component you choose for your setup after picking a CPU. Let’s break down the process of choosing a motherboard into a few simple steps.
What is a Motherboard?
A motherboard is a printed circuit board (PCB) that offers various connectors for components including the central processing unit (CPU), graphics processing unit (GPU), memory, and storage and acts as a kind of backbone for various component’s communication.
Motherboards come in different sizes, meaning that you have some flexibility in building your PC to fit into your environment. The following are several of the more popular form factors and their most common specifications:
|Mini ITX||Micro ATX||ATX|
|Size||9.0 x 7.5 inches||9.6 x 9.6 inches||12 x 9.6 inches|
|RAM Slots||2||Up to 4||Up to 8|
|GPUs||1||Up to 3||Up to 4|
|SATA Ports||Up to 6||Up to 8||Up to 12|
These are general guidelines for some of the most common motherboard form factors. There are more, and they vary in their capabilities.
Motherboard Expansion Options
In addition to the CPU, motherboards may interconnect a wide range of components, such as graphics cards, sound cards, networking cards, storage devices, and connectors, among many others. Over time, there have been many different types of extension ports, but thankfully, things have gotten much easier. Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) ports are the most common ports used nowadays, while some motherboards still include PCI slots for older devices.
All PC should have a way to output information in a format that humans can understand. It refers to the process of showing images on a monitor. You must ensure that your motherboard can handle the type of GPU you require for your purposes.
While your PC is powered on and operating, your CPU needs a place to store data. This is referred to as “random access memory,” or RAM and modern PCs typically have at least 4GB of RAM.
The amount of RAM you need for your personal computer depends on how you want to use it; for most light users, 8GB is a safe guideline, while 16GB or more is a wise choice.
You’ll need a space to save your PC’s operating system, apps, and data when the power is off if you want to utilise it. These days, it means deciding between solid-state drives (SSD), which store data in significantly quicker flash memory, and hard disc drives (HDD), which store data on spinning platters. While SSDs are more expensive but offer faster speeds and are ideal for keeping the operating system and applications, HDDs are often less expensive for more storage capacity.
A small SSD and large HDD
The selection of the appropriate storage involves a number of considerations. One popular strategy is to get a relatively small SSD for the operating system and programmes, which provides noticeably superior speed, and then bigger HDDs for storing enormous quantities of data, such as images and videos.
Remember that you can also attach external storage devices if necessary, and that’s a requirement for data that you need to carry around with you.
The PCIe, DIMM, and storage connectors are just a few of the methods of connecting parts to a motherboard. Today’s motherboards can handle a variety of additional connection kinds, so when choosing a motherboard, you need to pay careful attention to your needs.
The following are some of the common connections on modern motherboards. Not all motherboards have all these connections, and you’ll find some others as well.
|Audio for rear panel||Internal||Allows connecting to a case’s rear external audio jack (if any).||1|
|Audio for front panel||Internal||Allows connecting to a case’s front external audio jack (if any).||1|
|Digital audio header||Internal||Allows connecting to a digital audio jack.||1|
|Front panel header||Internal||Provides pins for connecting to font panel LED lights and buttons, such as for power and reset.||1|
|8-pin CPU power connector||Internal||Allows for power delivery from the power supply through the motherboard to the CPU. On modern motherboards, this is usually an eight-pin connector.||1|
|24-pin main power connector||Allows for power delivery from the power supply through the motherboard to a variety the connected components, such as PCIe components, RAM, and certain kinds of storage. On modern motherboards, this is usually an eight-pin connector.||1|
|Ancillary power connectors||Internal||In addition, there might be power connections for fans and other additional components.||Varies|
|USB||Internal or external||Provides for USB connections, including USB-A 2.0, and USB-A 3. X, and USB-C 3.1 ports. There will be internal connectors available for external case ports as well as USB ports for direct connections on the motherboard’s rear I/O panel.||Varies|
|Firewire||Internal or external||An older connection allows hooking up a Firewire device.||Varies|
|SATA||Internal||These are the connections for SATA HDDs and SSDs.||Varies|
|Display ports||External||If you have chosen a CPU with integrated graphics, then you will want to use one of the display ports that are in the rear I/O panel. These can include VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI ports.||Varies|
|Audio jacks||External||If your motherboard has built-in audio, and most do today, then it will have audio jacks to connect speakers and microphones. How many jacks and what kind of speaker setups they support (from stereo up to 7.1 channel surround sound) will vary based on the motherboard’s audio system.||Varies|
|Ethernet||External||Today’s motherboards typically come equipped with gigabit Ethernet ports for connecting to wired networks.||1|
|Wi-Fi antenna jack||External||If your motherboard includes built-in Wi-Fi networking, then there will typically be a screw-on jack for connecting an external antenna.||1|
Final Thoughts: What Makes a Motherboard Good?
After you’ve identified the type of motherboard that will be used to make your own PC or that will serve as the foundation of the pre-built PC you’ll be buying, you should think about the company that manufactured it.