How to Choose a Motherboard?

Choosing a motherboard can be a daunting task. You want something compatible with your existing hardware and ensures you get the most performance out of it. But what does motherboard compatibility entail? Motherboards vary in size, chipset, form factor, CPU socket type, amount, and type of ports and slots available. Unless you’re building your computer using a PC part picker where you can virtually build a PC or look through manuals, how can you know what motherboard will work best for your gaming PC build?

The first step is to choose a chipset. Most motherboards have either an Intel or AMD chipset built into them. There are different levels of compatibility with chipsets and CPUs, however, so you need to consider those as well. If you do not know how to choose a motherboard, you can follow these guidelines to help you make the right decision.

How does a motherboard work?

A motherboard is essentially the core on which your computer is built. All of your components plug into and communicate through so everything functions correctly. Motherboards vary in size, form factor, chipset, and other specs. Not all motherboards are compatible with specific components, though, so you need to figure all of this out before choosing the best motherboard for gaming.

Motherboard Anatomy

The first step to choosing a motherboard is knowing what it does. All other components connected to a computer’s motherboard are the main circuit board. This includes things like your CPU, GPU, RAM, sound card, and other hardware you may not think about when gaming.

You need to ensure your new motherboard makes correct contact with any of these components. You can do this by buying parts that are made to work together, but not every set of hardware is compatible with each other.

Chipset Compatibility

Choosing a motherboard is as much about compatibility as what you want from your PC. Compatibility dictates how much power your best CPU for gaming and best graphics card have, as well as other key features. The chipset determines how well the motherboard interacts with components like your graphics card and RAM to deliver optimal performance.

There are three types of chipsets: Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA (for NVIDIA GPUs only). Each has its pros and cons, but they all do different things for your system. Chipsets are not interchangeable; they cannot be swapped out randomly or moved between computers without making changes first. You need to know what chipset will work best for you before choosing any motherboard you’ve found on the internet or in stores. That means you need to know what components are compatible with which chipset types.

Choosing a Chipset

Choosing a chipset all depends on your CPU type. The CPU socket determines what kind of CPU you have, which dictates what kind of chipset the motherboard should interact with it.

There are three main sockets: AM3+, AM4, and LGA 1151 (only Intel CPUs).

AMD Motherboards

AMD motherboards use either AM3+ or AM4 chipsets. These chipsets work with AMD CPUs that fit into these respective slots. If you already own an AMD CPU, you need to look for this combination when shopping for a new motherboard. If the CPU is not compatible with one of these sockets, do not buy that motherboard because they will not connect without extra work.

Intel Motherboards

LGA 1151 is the most recent Intel chipset. It works with most i3, i5, and i7 Intel CPUs. If you have an LGA 1151 socket CPU, you are free to choose any motherboard that fits this socket type. However, there are compatibility issues between LGA 1151 motherboards and AMD CPUs. Before purchasing a motherboard, please read up on whether it’s compatible with your CPU or not.

RAM Compatibility

Another thing to consider when choosing a motherboard is how compatible it is with your RAM. Each motherboard has different memory slots, and compatibility can vary between manufacturers and models. If you buy the wrong type of RAM, it may not fit or communicate appropriately with other hardware on the board at all.

You will need to check this carefully before purchasing anything, as some motherboards only work with certain types of RAM. The number of memory slots in your motherboard varies depending on your choice; some have four while others have eight. Some boards also split these slots into two groups (a dual-channel), whereas others do not (a single channel).

Some motherboards that use dual-channel allow users to switch them back to a single channel if they wish, but there are limitations on what they can do. Some RAM is only compatible with dual-channel boards, fueling the myth that all DDR3 RAM works best in dual-channel sockets.

The type of RAM you choose is entirely up to you; however, most people stick with DDR4 for their latest motherboard purchases. There isn’t much difference between the various types of RAM available today, so your choice will depend more on what fits your budget and purpose than what delivers optimal performance.

Form Factor

The motherboard’s form factor is another consideration to think about before buying. Buying the correct form factor for your case helps ensure that everything sits nicely inside, plus it allows plenty of wiggle room so you can comfortably fit all your components in without too much trouble.

Five main motherboard sizes are available: Mini-ITX, microATX, ATX, E-ATX, and XL-ATX. The smaller the board size, the fewer expansion slots you can use. The larger the board, the more expansion options you get.

What You Need to Know About BIOS

Finally, BIOS is an important consideration when buying your motherboard. This is specific to each chipset type and manufacturer, so again, you need to check with all available information before making any final choices based on what this says. If you don’t understand something in the BIOS, look it up online or just ignore it until later; most people never change anything in there anyway.