PC Motherboard Buying Guide

At the very heart of your computer is the motherboard. It is the single most important part of your PC and without one your system is little more than an over sized paperweight. A motherboard's job is making every other piece of hardware work. It is the main circuit board inside of your machine that is responsible for the main electronic components, such as the central processing unit (CPU) and random access memory (RAM). It also provides connections to other important peripherals, like your graphics card, cooling systems, and power supply unit (PSU). Choosing the right motherboard for your computer is the first big decision you will be making for your build.

Types of Motherboards

AT Motherboard

The AT motherboard is an old model that is very rarely used in modern computer builds. This type of motherboard is great for computer enthusiasts who are interested in the history and evolution of the personal computer. Its practical uses are limited, as the AT motherboard will not be compatible with new technology. These motherboards follow the original design and size of the ones found in the first ever personal computers created by IBM.

ATX Motherboard

The invention of ATX motherboards introduced a more sophisticated build and advanced control facility in comparison to its predecessor. This type of motherboard was first introduced in 1995 and is still used in modern computer builds. ATX motherboards are built with a self-checking system that will actively monitor CPU temperature and voltages, cooling fan RPM, and other essential factors that keep your computer running with a clean bill of health. These motherboards also include a fail safe that will shut a computer down should any of its peripherals be malfunctioning in order to prevent as much damage as possible to the hardware. These motherboards are easy to install and the most recommended for DIY computer builds.

BTX Motherboard

BTX motherboards were originally designed to replace ATX models, but instead have coexisted as an alternative piece of hardware. These motherboards are almost perfect mirrors of the ATX motherboard, meaning the connecting points, sockets, and ports of a BTX are backwards from their placement on ATX motherboards. The BTX motherboard being built in this way means that it will not be compatible with an ATX case. The biggest benefit of this type of motherboard is that its design allows for better airflow under the board by leaving a larger gap between it and the chassis of the PC case than other motherboards.

Pico BTX Motherboard

This type of motherboard is smaller than its parent motherboard. The pico BTX type was designed to accommodate less complicated computer builds and it features only one or two expansion slots. They were also designed for half height or riser card applications. They are practical for users who are looking to build a computer with basic functionality. Pico BTX motherboards are not a good idea for someone looking to build a high end gaming rig or similar.

Mini ITX Motherboard

The Mini ITX Motherboard is another small version of a motherboard used for smaller computer builds. The benefits of this motherboard are that they are designed for fanless cooling, making them perfect for low-powered computers. The risk in using one of these miniature boards is that users must be careful not to add too much to the overall build or they run the risk of frying the motherboard completely. Like the pico BTX, the mini ITX motherboard is not meant for users looking to overclock their systems or for running high end graphics. They are a good option for home projects or minimal builds that will not generate much power or heat. One interesting design choice for this motherboard is it will fit into any case that can accommodate ATX motherboards, so case compatibility is much more wide spread.

Pay attention to

CPU socket

This socket determines what type of CPU will be compatible with your PC. If you already have a CPU or are planning on purchasing a CPU, this will be a deciding factor in what motherboard to buy.

Drive connectors

These connectors will determine how many hard drives will be able to exist inside of your computer.

Size

This will determine how many components can be added to your PC as each will need its own connection to the motherboard.

Memory Socket

Most motherboards come with two or four memory sockets. This determines how many RAM chips will fit onto the motherboard and will help in deciding how much RAM you will need each chip to be.

Jumpers

If your future plans include overclocking your PC, jumpers are a very important component to consider as they are necessary in order to easily configure your peripherals.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Asus

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MSI