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How to choose a Mainboard?

A Brief Guide

mainboardAfter your have decided on the type of processor, it is time to choose a compatible Mainboard. If you have not yet read our Processor Guide, please click here. The Mainboard aka Motherboard constitutes the fundaments of your PC. Every single component of your system connects to it. It is the foundation of your system. Your choice of Mainboard will determine the type of Processors it can use, and the number of expansion cards you can add. A good Mainboard will allow your system’s hardware to move information around quicker and have more built-in features.

GooGoo Explains

The most important thing on the Mainboard is its built-in ‘chipset’. It is the central intelligence of your Mainboard and directs information around the board and makes sure commands are executed properly. Like most PC components, the faster you want your Mainboard to be, the more expensive it is.

Mainboards have another important function; they provide you with ports that give you access to your basic services. For example, most Mainboards now should have a network port (which is used for connecting to the internet or a network), a few USB ports (to hook up your mouse, keyboard, digital camera, printer, scanner, thumbdrive etc…). Some Mainboards even have their own built-in sound card or video card (more on that later).

After you have decided on your choice of Mainboard you will have a much better idea how you can build your computer. You will know the number of card slots and USB ports your Mainboard has and you will need to check whether the components you want to add to your Mainboard are compatible with it. 

If you have done your research and have chosen a Mainboard already but don’t know quite enough about compatibility issues, talk to us and we will advise you on your available hardware choices based on your needs, Mainboard, and budget.

Picking a Mainboard

The most basic choice to make when picking a Mainboard is whether to go for one that supports AMD Processors or one that supports Intel Processors. Whichever you choose, go for a Mainboard that offers good upgrade options. For example, if you are building a budget PC using only an Intel Celeron Processor, try to match it with a Mainboard that can support the latest Intel Processor anyway so that you can upgrade your Processor in future when prices for current technology drop.

Similarly, if your choice is a budget AMD Sempron Processor, match it with a Mainboard that can support the latest AMD Processor anyway for the same reason. Below are other issues to consider when picking a Mainboard.    

1. Expansion Slots
The 3 most common slots found on most Mainboards are PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect), AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port), and PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) with the latter slowly taking over as the industry standard. AGP are for Graphics Cards and are slowly being phased out by PCIe slots. The table below illustrates the different data transfer rate by the different slot types.

Slot Type

Data Transfer Rate (MB/s)

PCI

133

AGP 1x

266

AGP 2x

533

AGP 4x

1066

AGP 8x

2133

PCIe x1

250

PCIe x4

1000

PCIe x8

2000

 PCIe x16

4000

Despite the better technology (faster data transfer rate) offered by PCIe slots, remember to purchase a Mainboard with a PCI slot as many Expansion Cards today still use PCI connection. 

2. Form Factor (Size)

Most PCs today are built with the ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) Mainboard as their many Expansion Slots offer the flexibility for upgrading. There are 4 types of ATX Mainboards in the market- ATX, Micro-ATX, Flex-ATX, Mini-ITX.
The following is the current Mainboard Form Factors sorted in descending sizes.

Form Factor (ATX)
1
ATX
2
Micro-ATX case
3
Flex-ATX case
4
Mini-ITX

As can be seen above, ATX is the biggest Mainboard and usually hold quite a few PCI and PCIe slots and at least 4 Memory slots. 
Flex-ATX Mainboards are increasingly popular in homes where space is a constraint as it is considerably smaller in size and therefore can be used for SFF (Small Form Factors). Some users will however by hampered by the lack of upgrade options due to the limited Expansion Slots.

3. Memory Slots
As RAM has a direct relationship to the performance of your system, it is better to go for a Mainboard with at least 4 Memory Slots even if you do not intend to purchase that many RAMs now. You will be surprised at how much your computer will increase in performance just by adding RAMs in future. 
4. Integrated Graphics Card

Cheap Mainboards usually do not have any Graphics Card Expansion Slot and are dependant on its built-in Graphics Chip. This further stresses the CPU with the many functions it has to serve. We advise against such Mainboards as they limit your upgrading options in future.
Even if you are assembling your PC only for basic web surfing and word processing, choose a Mainboard with a Graphics Card slot. Just purchase a low-end Graphics Card for your PC to take some workload off your processor. 
5. Audio
Audio Chips that accompany the Mainboard range from having 4 to 8 channels. Some high-end Mainboards even feature Audio Chips that have Dolby Digital Live and Dolby Prologic IIX technology. Audiophiles would stay clear of using on-board Audio and purchase a separate Audio Card for their listening pleasure.
We recommend that unless having the most pristine sound quality is vital to you, most built-in Audio Chips are decent enough.
6. LAN
Most Mainboards are shipped with a built-in Network Port. High-end Mainboards feature both Wireless LAN and LAN functions. Normally one network port is enough unless you see yourself needing two network ports: one for internet connection and the other for intranet access.

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When choosing a Mainboard, try not to buy a low-end one just for the sake of saving money. A good Mainboard will offer you plenty of upgrade options so you don’t have to end up purchasing a new computer every few years.
Also, replacing a Mainboard is very tedious and dangerous as you can end up invalidating some of your components in the process.
Along with CPU, RAM, and Hard Drive, the Mainboard forms the core components of a PC so do not compromise on quality. Go for a good brand like Asus, and MSI. If you are buying a preconfigured system from a dealer, DO NOT forget to ask what type and brand of Mainboard you will be getting and whether you can upgrade it to a decent Mainboard if the original is a low-end one.
Otherwise if a company is building a computer for you, check to see if they have a preferred brand of Mainboard. As they’ll also be providing support for your system, it’s important to select a Mainboard that they are very familiar with. 

 

The above guide is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. All information is written as objectively and accurately as possible. GooGoo Custom Computers are not responsible for any undesirable computer assembly outcomes resulted from reading our hardware guide.


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