How to Choose a Motherboard for Your PC: What to Look for. How to find the best motherboard

Open the computer casing and check where the spacers should be placed. Please refer to the manual and install the brackets according to the instructions. The location of the spacer depends on the aspect ratio of the motherboard.

How to Choose a Motherboard for Your PC: What to Look for

Ian Paul
Writer

Ian Paul is a freelance writer with over ten years of experience writing about technology. In addition to writing for How-To Geek, he regularly collaborates with PCWorld as a critic, reporter, reporter, deal hunter, and columnist. His work has also appeared online on The Washington Post, ABC News, MSNBC, Reuters, Macworld, Yahoo Tech, Tech.co, TechHive, The Huffington Post, and Lifewire. His articles are regularly distributed to many IDG sites, including CIO, Computerworld, GameStar, Macworld UK, Tech Advisor, and TechConnect. Read more.

Inside of a gaming computer showing a water-cooled motherboard.

Kreabobek / Shutterstock.com

New PC builds follow a common trajectory: You decide your GPU and CPU in whatever order is important to you. Then you typically decide your motherboard based on your budget (and CPU of choice), case, and then everything else.

Motherboard Basics

Since the CPU and graphics card have the greatest influence on the performance of your computer, it’s worth starting with them. However, a motherboard can also make a big difference. This can come down to its overall quality as well as the specifications needed for construction.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors to consider when purchasing a motherboard. We won’t go into detail about anything as basic as the socket type here – obviously you’ll need a motherboard with the socket type that suits your CPU of choice. In short: if you buy an AMD processor, you need an AMD-compatible motherboard. If you are purchasing an Intel processor, you will need an Intel compatible motherboard. The motherboard must not only be compatible with AMD or Intel, but also with the specific generation of CPU you are using.

Another important consideration is the size of the motherboard. There are many different sizes of motherboards for different purposes, but most people will be looking at standard ATX boards for traditional desktop computers.

Aside from that, let’s jump in.

All connections are made on buses, which are essentially motherboard circuits. Buses can be faster or slower. For example, a slow bus will slow down a well-functioning CPU; however, a high-speed bus cannot improve CPU speed. So these two components must be carefully selected to work well together.

Choose your CPU and chipset

Your first decision is also for the CPU. Your choice is AMD or Intel. Motherboards only work with the specific processor families for which they are intended. Our guide to the best processors will help you choose the perfect processor for every budget; Your needs should drive most of your decisions.

Without getting too deep into the hot CPU wars, let’s share some objective reasons why you choose Intel or AMD over the other side.

  • Do you need a lightning bolt? You’ll likely need an Intel motherboard. A select few AMD motherboards support this technology, but you can find it most often on Intel motherboards because Intel helped create it.
  • Need the best multi-core performance? Here you’ll want AMD. Threadripper or Ryzen 5000 chips have a significant advantage in core count over existing Intel HEDT options.
  • Need the best gaming performance? Most of the time, AMD Ryzen 5000 is your pick here. Intel offers a good value-for-performance ratio with some chips, such as the Core i5-11400 and Core i5-11600K.

Choose your form factor – ITX, M-ATX, or ATX

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