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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 constantly publishes motherboard comparisons, it's easy to overlook the fact that many newcomers lack the requisite knowledge to take advantage of the advice we give. If ever you've found yourself scratching your head after reading about a layout critique, a certain form factor, or a particular chipset, today's update was written just for you.
What goes into choosing a motherboard? Certainly the support for your CPU of choice is key, and Tom's Hardware is there again with everything from low-power mobile processors to 200+ watt overclocked monsters. Still, a motherboard is far more than the component 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 some won’t 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 limits the performance of their high-priced build, making it feel like a less-expensive machine. We'll try to help you avoid that awkward moment, when you realize this board won't fit into that enclosure.
Choosing parts that fit and work well together requires consideration of motherboard size, socket type, and chipset features. Getting the best performance involves intricacies like memory configuration and graphics support. Ultimate functionality requires consideration of onboard devices and/or additional card slots.
That seems like a lot of data to take into consideration before even making a purchase, and with over a 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.