We were all beginners once, but it's easy for experts to forget how much they didn't know at the outset of their journey. So, even as Tom's Hardware Guide constantly publishes motherboard comparisons, it's easy to forget that many newcomers lack the requisite knowledge to take advantage of the advice we give.
So what goes into choosing a motherboard? Certainly the support for a desired CPU is key, and Tom's Hardware Guide is there again with everything from low-power mobile processors to 200+ watt overclocked monsters. But a motherboard is far more than simply the device a CPU plugs into!
A somewhat common worst-case scenario for first-time builders is to spend hundreds of dollars in parts, only to find that they do not all fit together. Less common is when parts that fit together don't work together. But the most frequent problem new builders face is an inappropriate component selection that may limit the performance of a high-priced system, making the added expense a waste of money.
Choosing parts that fit and work well together requires consideration of motherboard size, socket type and chipset features. Getting the best performance involves intricacies such as memory configuration and graphics support. Ultimate functionality requires consideration of onboard devices and/or additional card slots.
That seems like a lot of things to consider, and with over two dozen brands offering hundreds of options, nobody said it would be easy. However, a little general knowledge and a few reviews can take the guesswork out of motherboard selection so you can narrow the market down to a small number of "best matched" models.
- Which Features Matter Most To You?
- Motherboard Component Overview
- Layout Considerations
- Choosing The Right Size (Form Factor)
- BTX Through Pico-BTX
- Choosing The Right Processor Socket
- Socket 478 (Intel Pentium 4, Celeron)
- LGA 775 (Intel Pentium 4, Pentium D, Celeron, Core 2 Duo)
- Choosing The Right Chipset
- Quad Data Rate Northbridge Technologies (S478, S775)
- The Southbridge
- Memory And Expansion Card Slots
- BIOS Features