The motherboard is probably the most important component in your PC. Nothing else will work without it, the size of your computer is dictated by it and it decides what future upgrades you will be able to make. When building your own PC, there are all sorts of parts you will need to gather from RS Components, including the motherboard. To find the one that best meets your wants and needs, makes all the following considerations.
Firstly, your budget will have a big impact on the range of motherboards that are affordable and can quickly narrow down what’s available. The good news for those on a tight budget is that you can find a good motherboard for less than £100. However, if you want to overclock an Intel chip or need a lot of ports, expect to spend more. For the high-end desktop chips, you may have to spend over double that, so define your budget before you start to browse.
The majority of modern motherboards come in three sizes (or form factor). These are:
- ATX: The most common variety, these offer the most space for plugs and slots.
- Micro-ATX: These are 2.4 inches shorter, with less room for expansion slots.
- Mini-ITX: Ideal for building a small PC but at nearly half the size of an ATX you only have room for one add-in card.
Four RAM slots are commonplace with most mainstream motherboards, although Mini-ITX ones usually only have two. A motherboard that can accommodate at least 16GB is recommended, though 32GB can be useful. It can be worthwhile to look for a motherboard with four or more memory slots so that you can upgrade RAM in the future, with the choice of spreading 32GB across two 16GB or four 8GB sticks.
The type of socket determines what kind of processor you can buy, so it’s important to think about what CPU you want first. There are currently three types of processor sockets in use:
- LGA: These are used by Intel.
- PGA: AMD uses PGA sockets.
- BGA: As these are permanently bonded to the motherboard they can’t be serviced or upgraded.
Finally, a PCI slot is a connection located on the motherboard which allows expansion cards to be connected. For a gaming computer, at least one full-speed PCI Express x16 slot will be required, with more if you want to connect more than one card. PCI slots can also be used for connecting sound cards, Wi-Fi adaptors and other connectivity expansions.
The number of SATA ports allow you to connect optical and storage drives, such as an SSD or HDD. SATA 3.0 (or SATA 6 GB) is the standard, so you need to check that the motherboard has all the ports to meet this, while peripheral connections such as USB 3.0 may need considering.
High-end motherboards can be found with a huge range of features added on. On-board on/off switches aren’t necessary but can be useful in the build process, a Wi-Fi card is ideal where there is no ethernet, while LED diagnostic readouts are helpful to highlight any problems. Many more optional features exist, depending if you need them or not.
Once you’ve looked for all these things, you should know if the motherboard is right for your PC or not.