How to pick a motherboard


When building your own computer one part was always a mystery to me: the motherboard. Picking a CPU/GPU/memory is easy- you just figure out where the various chips are in the low end to high end scale, do a little market research on what current games demand, and pick the parts from their respective continuums of low-to-high-end models.

A mother board is more complicated though. Its features are not as obvious as "this motherboard is faster than that motherboard". Now you need to deal with part compatibilities, bus speeds, maybe power management stuff, etc.

I'm interested in a short guide for selecting a motherboard, especially- what pitfalls to avoid (for example, can bus speed become a bottleneck?).

To clarify: I'm not looking for motherboard recommendations. I'm looking for guidance regarding how to evaluate the fitness of a motherboard given the rest of the computer parts.

Best Answer

  • Find the defining parameters of your peripheral and internal devices to make sure that the main-board support their speeds.

    1. FSB of the CPU  (and socket)
    2. RAM frequency   (check total and per-slot capacity)
    3. GPU interface   (PCIe x16, x8, ...) 
    4. Serial-ATA, SCSI, fiber HDD interfaces
    5. USB3 devices    (firewire for camera?) 
    6. Check that the mobo fits into the case.

    Those things are uniform for any computer - that is the mobo must be capable of running the internal devices on their maximum speed.

    If you are planning to upgrade the computer in the future, then you need to consider cashing out for a more expensive alternative that support faster RAM and CPU than you can currently afford. It is also unwise to get a mATX mobo with 2 or less PCIe slots in that case.

    Step 2 may require special attention depending on the manufacturer of the motherboard. I don't see why people are afraid of naming brands. Intel, for instance will not always support "custom" speed RAM because their server and workstation boards aim at stability. This varies. Check the documentation of potential motherboards.

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