Computer Hardware

How to Choose the Right Motherboard

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Motherboard chips heatsink slots
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Introduction

Pre-requisites

Choosing the right motherboard for your new computer system is never easy because there is a very wide range of technical details and prices to sift through.  We will guide you through the important aspects and recommend some good components for your budget.

Before you begin browsing motherboards, you should decide which CPU you want to buy first, an note the type and socket it uses. It is crucial that they be compatible with each other.  This will determine many aspects of the motherboard's functionnalities.

You may also want to select your RAM and video card (GPU) first to match the performance and compatibility.  It's worth checking each motherboard’s list of compatible RAM speeds, types and brands.

 

What is a Motherboard

The motherboard is the coordinator of your computer system.  It will host everything else, from your CPU, GPU, RAM and all other peripheral connections (mice, keyboard, tablet...).  It make everything work together seamlessly determines what connectors and ports are present on your computer, in the back and inside. This will in turn decide which components and devices will be allowed to connect to the computer now and in the future.

The motherboard also defines the future expandability of your computer.  It's size and internal connections (inside the computer case or laptop), will determine which component you can later use to upgrade to (video card or ).  You can also look for a motherboard with Bluetooth, WiFi, a sound card and other specifications you may find useful, so take your time to look at the technical specifications of your purchase. In this article, we will concentrate mostly on what is essential to your computing performance for 3D work.

 

Motherboard Connections

Here are all the types of connectors that are part of the motherboard's influence.  This is valid as much for a desktop than for a laptop, it's only the layout that differs.  In fact, every electronic device has a motherboard, each of different size.

  • Main Components : CPU, GPU, RAM
  • Internal devices: PCI cards, network cards,  hard drives
  • Back and front connectors: Firewire, USB, eSata, ethernet
  • Audio jacks: microphone, headphones, speakers

The motherboard also determines the basic user interface (BIOS) of your computer.

 

Technical Specifications

CPU Socket

The first thing to look for is the right socket type which is the receptacles that the motherboard uses to host the CPU.  Depending on the category of processor, it's generation and the brand, CPUs will require different types of motherboards to unlock their full potential.

 

GPU Slots

You do not need to find a motherboard that supports integrated graphics viceo chips, as we recommend finding a CPU without one.  Instead, find a motherboard that supports the type of port your dedicated video card will have.

 

RAM Compatibility

Make sure to check the motherboard manufacturer's website or forums to know which RAMS are recommended and compatible with your motherboard.  The DDR type, speed and channel of the RAM must be taken into account properlt.   Failing to do so  may result in instabilities in the operations of the computer, noticeable as lags or crashes in the OS.

 

Form Factor

You will then need to choose the form factor of your computer.  The motherboard size will influence the type of computer case you will need to fit everything into it.  So, will it be a huge box, a normal box, or micro box or a laptop?

Big Tower (Office/Pro): Full ATX

Standard Tower (Recommended): Mid-ATX

Small Tower (For special situations): Micro-ATX

Most people will choose the normal-sized computer tower and this is what we recommend.  This will be absolutely perfect for everyone starting out in 3D computer graphics.  Bigger boxes are usually for professionnal use and experienced overclockers.  Therefore, you can safely go with a (mid) ATX-sized computer.  It will still allow for a good number of expansion and drives to be connected onto it.

Recommended Connectors

Motherboard specs

Essential Motherboard Connectors

  • An Ethernet port 10/100/1000 Mbps (standard)
  • 4x USB ports (minimum)
  • 1x PCI-E slot (minimum)
  • 2x PCI slots (minimum)
  • 4x RAM memory slots
  • Audio Sound Card
  • CPU Fan connector

 

Optional Specifications:

  • Wifi
  • Bluetooth
  • FireWire
  • eSata
  • Chassis Fan Connectors
  • USB 3.0
  • PS/2 ports (outdated)

Brands

We recommend that you purchase a trusted brand, that is known for the quality of its products.  We usually prefer only ASUS' motherboards because of their well though designs and interface, but  MSI and Gigabyte are also acceptable for their price.  However, more mainstream and cheaper boards are not  made with as much attention and can be frustrating to set up and expand.

 

Price

You can expect to pay around  between 100$ and 200$ for a good motherboard, depending on the quality and functionalitie.  However, if you want to go on a tight budget, you can still get all the basics starting at around 50$, without much compromise.  In this range, you should not expect to be able to overclock, or have a lot of functionnalities (in your BIOS).

Recommendations

Motherboard Range Differences

Value

Recommended

Overclockers

 

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