If you consider the CPU the brain of the computer, the RAM the short term memory and the HDD as the long term memory then the motherboard is the blood and skin. It is what ties it all together. When you are building a PC you are often attaching parts to the motherboard and then attaching the board to the case. But what does the motherboard do besides having everything attached to it?
Well, it helps your parts communicate together, it takes all the information and transfers it from part to part. When a CPU executes a function, the motherboard sends it to the GPU to be drawn up and then it sends it to the monitor to be displayed. So how should you decide what motherboard to buy? Well, there are several different things that factor into your motherboard choice.
The motherboard brings you so many little things that it can be the daunting task, it is not about performance. You cannot state that one motherboard performs better than the other when it is so subjective and dependent on what you want your computer to be able to do.
Not only does a motherboard connect everything but it also gives you wifi, Bluetooth, all the plugins for cables, your BIOS, and control of the rest of your computer. It keeps all the other parts in line and makes sure everything is running well. So it’s important to choose the right mother for your expensive children.
What to look for in a Motherboard
Look for the chipset first. That is most important, you do not want to have a motherboard that uses a different chipset than your CPU. This will mean that you cannot use your CPU. They HAVE to line up. I cannot stress this enough, it is the single most important thing. Make sure your motherboard is using the chipset as the rest. I use the Z170 Pro Gaming motherboard that has the LGA1151 Chipset. So I had to make sure that my CPU had the same chipset. You are unlikely to find a motherboard that has a chipset that you cannot match to a CPU. I would say it is impossible.
Beyond this, you want to look at the attachments that your motherboard. When you plug in a USB cable into the back of the computer it is attaching to the motherboard. So you want to make sure that your motherboard will have enough slots for your needs.
If you have a lot of devices plugged into your computer then you want to make sure that you have enough. Most of the time there are plenty. I have never wanted for more USB plugins. And if you do find yourself needing more plug in’s then you can always buy a USB splitter, this will give you more places to plug in your devices.
You should also see if the motherboard you are using has Bluetooth and wifi integrated into it. Mine doesn’t, which isn’t an issue because I use Ethernet anyways. But it is something to keep in mind when looking at motherboards. If your build needs Bluetooth and wifi then you should get one with those integrated. But you don’t actually need it to be integrated as you can chips that will give you those same features.
If you are just a casual user and are not planning on gaming then you should look at motherboards with integrated graphics cards. This is good enough for more than half of the world. But if you intend to do anything with gaming or graphic design then you should get a discrete graphics card. This is the separate card dedicated solely to drawing your screens and putting them on your monitor. It is the most expensive component in most gamers rigs, so if you don’t need it then you can save several hundred dollars.
You want to buy your motherboard from a reputable brand. That way you are more likely to get a good motherboard and these companies know what they are doing. A motherboard is a sensitive piece of equipment. In fact, it is THE most fragile and sensitive part of your computer. The other parts are relatively robust, but the motherboard has several fail-safes and could still succumb to too much electricity or rough handling.
Keep an eye on how many PCI Express slots your motherboard has. Those slots are where you put things like RAM, a discrete graphics card, dedicated sound card. You name it and it’s probably going to go into a PCI Express slot. You need to see how many of these slots you have. Especially if you are going for multiple GPU setups, or if you are going to have a lot of RAMs.
Before buying your motherboard
You need to figure out what kind of computer you want and how you are going to achieve it. When I started my build I decided what kind of computer I wanted, then created a budget. From there I chose my motherboard and then made sure that everything else had the same socket. But the CPU I wanted used a different socket. So I found a different motherboard (the one I use now).
The key was that my new motherboard had all the same features but a different chipset. This way I lost none of the stuff I wanted and still got the CPU and GPU that I wanted. The art of building your own PC is more about getting what you want within the budget then it is actually building your PC. Having the knowledge about what every part does will help you properly prioritize the aspects of your PC.