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HomeMotherboardsHow to Buy a Motherboard: Full Buyer’s Guide for 2023

How to Buy a Motherboard: Full Buyer’s Guide for 2023

The main part of your computer is a motherboard which is a printed circuit board (PCB) that helps to make the backbone of your computer system. It helps to interlink a variety of components and provides connectors for different components including the central processing unit, graphics processing unit, RAM, and storage.

When you went to the market to buy a new motherboard for your PC, you’ll see a collection of its important components including, circuits, transistors, slots, connectors, cooling systems, and much more. All these factors combine to transfer signals and power throughout the PC and let you connect all of the required components with it.

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Imagine a computer without a motherboard is just like a world without trees. So, buying a motherboard might be a complicated task, as you have to focus on lots of technical details such as the type of processor it has, memory storage capacity, the speed provided by memory, peripherals it allows to connect, and many other features!

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So, if you’re thinking of upgrading your computer, then you’re at the right place. In this how-to article, I’m going to enlist some major features that you must consider before buying a motherboard. Do you want to know more about these major features and their importance in a motherboard, then let’s dig into this article:

What To Consider When Buying A Motherboard in 2023?

AMD or Intel: Which processor is the best?

The first and most important decision that you’ve to make while purchasing a top-notch motherboard is its central processing unit. You only have two options while selecting the CPU; Intel and AMD. Both companies serve as the brain of your PC and run top-notch games at the highest frames per second without any lag or buffering.

Both these processors are good enough for web browsing, enhance your computer or laptop’s productivity, support ultra-powerful programs or software such as video editing projects, and much more!

AMD vs Intel
Credit: HA Bytes (AMD vs Intel)

If we compare Intel processors with AMD, then it offers excellent CPU performance and all of these processors come with iGPU. This processor offers higher clocking than AMD processors but consumes high power and battery life. Thus, Intel is best for short workloads and single-core systems such as newer Intel laptops.

But if you want to upgrade your desktop, then the Intel processor has lesser options for motherboard or socket compatibility than the AMD processor. However, laptops having AMD Ryzen processors offer lower clocking, yet they are integrated with advanced cooling systems and consume less battery.

So, those people who want high iGPU performance and long battery life laptops must prefer an AMD processor motherboard. Moreover, these motherboards have better capability to handle heavy tasks such as video editing, 3D modeling, etc, Also, the architectural design of AMD has a smaller fabrication process that makes it more power efficient and occupies less space than Intel.

Size of Motherboard:

Most modern motherboards come in 4 different sizes, which are mentioned below:

4 Sizes of Motherboard
Credit: HA Bytes (4 Sizes of Motherboard)
  • ATX: It is a standard-size motherboard that offers more space for plugs and slots and fits into almost PC cases. It offers much more space for around four memory slots, many PCI-Express slots, all USB ports, and other connectors you want to connect.
  • Micro ATX/mATX: This motherboard is slightly smaller, than ATX but contains less number of PCI-Express slots. These motherboards can easily fit into small PC cases.
  • Mini-ITX: This board is much smaller than mATX and contains only a PCI-E x16 slot along with two memory slots. However, they do fit in small board size but it doesn’t offer the same high-end options. Mini-ITX offers space for one graphics card and fewer connectors for memory and RAM.
  • E-ATX/Extended ATX: Comes with just motherboard makers or chipsets and offers outstanding overclocking performance. But they offer extra space for accommodating larger coolers and components.

Integrated ports:

Before buying a new motherboard for your laptop or PC, it’s important to check the I/O area. The I/O area offers external connection options such as USB 3, 2, Type-C, Audio ports, etc. With these connections, you can add more ports through a front panel on your PC case or slot brackets at the back.

The following common ports are available in a variety of motherboards:

  • USB 3 / USB 3.1 (Gen1): If your motherboard has these ports, then it must not be too much as it works with almost all peripherals.
  • USB 2: This port is slower than USB 3 / 3.1 but connects keyboards, mice, and many other devices easily.
  • USB 3.1/3.2 (Gen2): This port delivers 10 Gbps of bandwidth which is double the USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 3.0, 3.2, and Gen2. These ports are only available on mid and high-end boards.
  • USB Type-C: These ports are only compatible with USB 3.1 Gen1 or USB 3.1 Gen2 and are specially designed for newer devices like Andriod phones. However, fewer of them are just USB 2.0 or Audio USB-C ports that only connect to USB-C headsets.
  • HDMI / DisplayPort: If you want to get the most out of the integrated graphics, then this port is a must for you.
  • Audio ports: These ports are essential if you want to connect speakers or headphones.
  • PS/2 ports: These ports allow you to connect old-model keyboards and mice.
  • Thunderbolt: This is very rarely found in most motherboards, but some support it via special add-on cards. It offers up to 40 Gbps speed.

Out of all these ports, you may don’t require USB 3.1 Gen 2 or Type-C ports right now, but they’re a good option for future-proofing your PC.

Motherboard RAM/Memory:

The most common motherboards include four RAM slots. However, compact Mini-ITX models are usually integrated with just two and exclusive HEDT boards that are mostly eight. So, if a motherboard has fewer slots, you can’t install more RAM in it.

Image by Matt Safford via TomsHardware

But for doing mainstream tasks and gaming, 16GB RAM is compulsory and 32GB is enough. Moreover, with just two slots on the motherboard, you can install easily install 64GB of RAM.

Expansion Slots:

Most motherboards include only two slot types; one long PCIe x16 and a short PCIe x1 slot. However, in most motherboards, x4 slots are also available but they’re very rare. But as you can easily insert an x4 or an x1 card into an x16 slot, x4 slots aren’t useful for graphics cards.

Also, make sure the arrangement/spacing between that slots while you’re installing more expansion cards. Moreover, if you’ve six slots on the motherboard and you install a gaming graphics card in either of the two x16 slots, then you just have two accessible slots left to add other cards.

So, if you’re planning to install lots of expansion cards, then you must go for an ATX motherboard. PCIe slots are available in high-end and even common motherboards. They provide more support for large graphics cards and keep the plastic slot safe from cracking or breaking because of the weight of heavy cards.

Overclocking feature:

The mainstream motherboards usually don’t overclock their processors.

In this Motherboard’s buying guide, you’ll get to know that if you want that your CPU achieve higher clock speeds, then you’ve to purchase a motherboard with an advanced cooling system. So, if you want that your Intel extra overlocking with an older motherboard, then you’ve to buy a Z490 chipset and a CPU having “K” in its model name such as the Core i7-8700K. You can also buy another high-ending X299 or a Skylake X chip.

On the other hand, if you have got an AMD, then you’re lucky as almost all current-generation of AMD Ryzen chips support overclocking. Moreover, its low-end chipsets such as A320 and A300 also support overclocking as well. So, you’ve to decide carefully what kind of motherboard you want.

Audio card:

A Motherboard’s audio quality depends on the audio codec which is known as the audio processing chip that is installed in each motherboard. So, if you want perfect sound quality, then you must look up the audio codec of the motherboard. Must check that the audio codec of your motherboard is a mid-range or high-end model. Moreover, you can also buy a separate sound card for your motherboard or USB speakers. USB speakers will convert digital signals to analog such as Audioengine A2+

LED DIagnostic Beeps:

When you plug the tiny speaker into the motherboard headers the LED diagnostic shows a beeping sound. Nowadays, many mid-to-high-end motherboards are integrated with a two-or-three-digit display that offers an alpha-numeric code when something went wrong. This would be a great feature because if you forget to plug in some wire or the wire isn’t fixed properly, then it will show a beep sound with an LED indication.

WiFi Card:

If you want to enjoy a wireless internet facility, then you must buy a motherboard having a WiFi card with WiFi 6 technology. That allows you to connect your PC or laptop wirelessly with your WiFi router.

Dual Ethernet ports:

A single Gigabit Ethernet port offers plenty of bandwidth to handle Internet traffic. So, if you want a heavy-duty wired network connection, then you must go for a motherboard having dual-Ethernet offering 2.5Gb or 10Gb speed.

Motherboard Storage:

Motherboard Storage
Credit: HA Bytes

If you want to store the operating system, applications, and data when the computer is powered off, then you must purchase a motherboard with HDD or SDD. A hard disk drive (HDD) is expensive and stores data on spinning platters. While solid-state drives (SSD) store data much faster in flash memory.

However, they’re more expensive than HDD but offer extra speed, and have enough capacity to store the operating system and applications.

Storage connectors of Motherboard:

The most common storage connection that is available in most motherboards is serial ATA/SATA. SATA 3.0 provides around 6 gigabits per second transfer speed. This high speed translates to around 600 MB/s reading and writing speeds for SSDs and less than 150MB/s reading and writing for HDDs. So, you can buy a motherboard having SATA 3.0 connection ports that support both HDDs and SDDs.

Motherboard’s GPU Support:

A GPU is an essential unit of a motherboard that helps to display images or videos in HD print on a monitor or laptop screen. So, if you want to enjoy high-quality print, then make sure that your motherboard must support a particular GPU that you need for enjoying HD gaming or movie.

However, some Intel Core CPUs are already integrated with GPUs that display output to a monitor. Also, AMD is integrated with an accelerated processing unit (APU) that works with a CPU and GPU for providing an enhanced picture view. But the GPU of AMD is relatively low-powered and works great for normal productivity tasks and supports lower graphics games such as e-sports.

So, if you want to upgrade your motherboard with a powerful GPU that works best for either gaming or demanding applications such as video editing, then make sure that it must be connected to your motherboard and support it.

Bottom Line: How to buy a Motherboard

Now after reading this article, you’ve got enough information regarding how to buy a motherboard and all its essential features. And I’m sure that after reading this buyer’s guide you’ve identified what kind of motherboard you’ll need to upgrade your PC or laptop.

All these important points form the foundation of an ultimate motherboard. However, some companies offer motherboards that are specially designed for gamers having exclusive GPUs and LED light systems.

While other companies provide motherboards that are specially designed for mainstream systems. So, for purchasing the right motherboard you can also check our BEST OF Motherboards articles, which will help you to choose the right product according to your needs.

FAQs:

How to find that whether our motherboard offers overclocking or not?

To do so, simply boot the system and enter your BIOS. Now search through the options on your screen and you’ll find a manual setting for adjusting CPU clocks, voltages, and memory. If the overclock feature appears on your system screen, then your system will likely overclock your system.

Can we buy a second-hand motherboard?

It’s preferred to buy a brand-new motherboard instead of the older one. Because it’s an important part of your PC and if anything goes wrong with a new motherboard you still have the manufacturer warranty. So, they would provide you with a new motherboard or repair it. But if you still buy a second-hand motherboard, then make sure that you must purchase it from a reliable source. Moreover, also check that all its components are in good condition and they’re compatible with your device.

How to find that a motherboard is good?

Some specific features and specs make a motherboard good or bad. So, a combination of chipset, the number of PCIe lanes and versions, VRM design, USB ports, and other features that are mentioned above determines whether a motherboard is good or bad.

Is an expensive motherboard better than a cheaper one?

If you purchase an expensive motherboard it will definitely have more USB ports, advanced-level performance standards, greater room for drives, and much more! So, expensive motherboards offer better quality than cheaper ones that may shows system failure after a while.

How much will a high-quality motherboard cost?

If you buy a high-performance motherboard then it will cost you anywhere between $50-$1500. However, the average cost of a motherboard is budget-friendly and is about $70-$130. While, if you purchase mid-range motherboards it will cost you from $150-$180. However, the most popular high-end motherboard will cost you about $200-$250.

Further Reading on HABytes: Drone Buying Guide / Laptop Buying Guide / AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D Review / AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT Review.

This article was originally published on Jan. 4, 2023

HA Staff
HA Staffhttps://thehabytes.com/
HA Staff is a team of writers that work together, researching new products everyday, buyer's guides, fact-checked, and daily life problem solving toturials.

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