How to Choose a New Motherboard for Your PC

Building a new PC can be daunting for a beginner, especially when choosing a new motherboard. It houses most of your components, making it the most crucial part of any build. With the many options available, choosing the right one can be difficult. The compatibility issues are another case entirely.

Choosing the wrong motherboard can also negatively impact performance and upgradeability. You must look for certain factors, such as RAM/storage support, overclocking ability, connectivity, and more. It’s a confusing process, no doubt, so we’re covering all of those factors to help you make the best possible choices when it comes to your PC’s new motherboard.


1. Compatibility

Circuit Closeup on motherboard

Compatibility is the most important aspect when shopping for a new motherboard. You don’t want to buy something that does not work with your other parts.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with motherboard chipsets. First, you should know which processor you are buying the motherboard for. There are two major brands when it comes to desktop PC processors: AMD with its Ryzen lineup and Intel with its Core-I series.

Most Ryzen processors have AM4 or AM5 sockets. A good choice for AM4 is the B550 and B450 chipset. Compatible chipsets for AM5 include X670E, X670, B650E, and B650. Intel, on the other hand, changes its compatibility with every CPU lineup. Intel’s 2022 13th-Gen supports the Z790 and Z690 chipsets.

If you’re unfamiliar with this stuff, it might sound a bit complex. However, an internet search will help you identify your processor’s socket. Look for a chipset that uses the same socket to find the right board.

2. Form Factor

person replacing parts in cpu

In the context of the size of your motherboard, the ‘form factor’ can be a technical term. There are mainly three sizes: ATX, Micro-ATX or mATX, and Mini-ITX. Out of the three, ATX is the largest, Mini-ITX is the smallest, and Micro-ATX falls somewhere in between.

However, the form factor does not correlate with the compatibility of other parts. The only thing it affects is the case or chassis. For example, a mini-ITX PC case can’t house a full-sized ATX motherboard.

The form factor usually comes down to your preference. Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX tend to look cleaner and minimal due to their compact size. They also fit into most cases with ease. The bigger form factors tend to look bulky but offer more features than smaller ones.

The major difference between ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX is that smaller form factors have fewer connectivity options. For example, most Mini-ITX motherboards have only two RAM slots.

3. RAM Support and Capacity

ddr5 rams with colorful design

When it comes to RAM support, there are two things to keep in mind–generation and capacity. The most recent generation of RAM is DDR5. It’s the successor to DDR4 and is only supported on newer motherboard platforms. There’s also older DDR3 RAM, but if you’re building a new PC today, you don’t need to pay attention to that.

DDR5 is faster, more efficient, and can be overclocked to a higher frequency. It’s hard to choose between DDR5 and DDR4, but if you want to save money, go with DDR4. The latter still performs well, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on performance. However, get a motherboard that supports DDR5 to ensure your PC is future-proofed.

As for capacity, most ATX motherboards will easily support about 128GB RAM. However, some Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX boards won’t support any more than 64GB. That’s still more than enough for gaming, but you might need more capacity for production workloads.

4. Storage Support

Person installing RAM on motherboard

Storage support on a motherboard refers to the number of storage slots available. We recommend using a solid-state drive (SSD), which will be faster for both games and boot times. Both hard drives and SSDs connect to a motherboard via SATA slots. Most boards have six SATA slots meaning you can connect up to six drives if you desire.

M.2 SSDs differ from SATA drives and plug into an M.2 slot on your motherboard. There are two types of M.2 SSDs: NVMe and SATA. M.2 NVMe drives are faster than SATA drives. Most modern motherboards will have at least two M.2 slots. Some higher-end options may have three or four. Keep in mind that these drives can be more expensive than traditional SATA SSDs.

5. Overclocking Ability

Custom built cpu closeup

Overclocking allows you to squeeze out extra performance from your graphics card, CPU, and even your memory. If you know what you’re doing, you can get a considerable boost in performance. On the other hand, it can be a bit risky. If done wrong, you might run into stability issues and shorten the lifespan of your hardware.

You’ll need an unlocked processor and a motherboard that supports overclocking if you want to overclock your CPU. On the Intel side, only the Z-series chipsets support CPU overclocking. As for AMD, the B-series and X-series chipsets support it, though it’s not universal. Not every motherboard will be good for overclocking, so do your research.

6. Connectivity

Connectivity Ports on Motherboard

Connectivity impacts the functionality and versatility of your build. Consider the number and type of USB ports, audio jacks, networking options, RGB headers, fan headers, and expansion slots on the motherboard. Look for compatibility with your peripherals and accessories to ensure your PC meets your connectivity needs.

Ports and overall connectivity highly depend on the motherboard model. For example, one board might have multiple fan headers and support for multiple RGB peripherals. On the other hand, cheaper boards will have fewer connectivity options.

PCIe slots are also an important consideration. Peripheral Component Interconnect Express slots connect hardware devices like a graphics card, sound card, or storage devices to the motherboard. The latest PCIe standard is PCIe 5.0. Furthermore, PCIe slots come in standardized sizes ranging from x1 (smallest) to x16 (largest)—a dedicated graphics card typically uses the largest slot.

Consider your needs wisely, or you might end up buying adapters or expansion cards later on.

7. Design and Durability

PC with ambient lighting

While aesthetics may not be a priority for everyone, the design can impact the overall look and feel of your build. Consider sticking to a color theme while selecting a motherboard. You can improve the looks of your rig if you can match the parts according to the same color theme. Some boards also have RGB lighting if you’re into that sort of thing.

Durability is less important, as you likely won’t move the motherboard around once installed. However, you want something well-built so that connectors and ports don’t randomly break when you install something. Some boards will include quality-of-life features such as debugging LEDs and a BIOS flashback button.

A Motherboard Can Make or Break Your Build

When building a new PC, most people don’t pay much attention to the motherboard. It’s true that you don’t really need an expensive motherboard for the best experience. However, it’s important to at least consider the basic factors such as connectivity, RAM and storage support, and compatibility with other parts.


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