If you want to build a per­son­al com­put­er or upgrade its plat­form, you need a moth­er­board. It is she who con­nects the PC com­po­nents to each oth­er and ensures the sta­ble oper­a­tion of the device. We tell you what to look for when choos­ing a “moth­er­board” for a home or office com­put­er.

Gam­ing moth­er­boards can be dis­tin­guished by their strik­ing design. Source: gamingph.com

Proces­sor sock­et
Num­ber of slots and type of RAM
Form fac­tor
Com­mon Moth­er­board Form Fac­tors
moth­er­board chipset
Num­ber of M.2 con­nec­tors
Exter­nal con­nec­tors
Avail­abil­i­ty of Wi-Fi
Which video card to buy: bud­get and expen­sive moth­er­boards
Inex­pen­sive moth­er­boards
Giga­byte H510M H
Asrock A320M-DVS R4.0
Mid-Seg­ment Moth­er­boards
MSI Pro B660M‑P WiFi DDR4
Giga­byte B660M DS3H AX DDR4
Expen­sive moth­er­boards
Asus Prime Z690‑P DDR5
MSI Mag B660 Tom­a­hawk WiFi DDR5
Con­clu­sions: what to look for when buy­ing a moth­er­board

Processor socket

A proces­sor sock­et, or sock­et, is a spe­cial mount with a set of con­tacts. It must be the same as the proces­sor that we plan to install in the com­put­er.

Proces­sors for per­son­al com­put­ers are pro­duced by two com­pa­nies: Intel and AMD.

Intel has a large num­ber of sock­ets that it changes as soon as pos­si­ble, with­out look­ing back at the prob­lem of incom­pat­i­bil­i­ty of new proces­sors with the stuff­ing of old com­put­ers.

Intel’s most cur­rent sock­et is LGA 1700, com­pat­i­ble with 12th gen­er­a­tion proces­sors. For exam­ple, proces­sors from Celeron G6900 to Core i9-12900K inclu­sive are suit­able for it.

The old­er sock­et, the LGA 1200, is the most com­mon on the mar­ket. It is com­pat­i­ble with Intel 10th and 11th gen­er­a­tion proces­sors i.e. Celeron G5905 to Core i9-11900K. “Moth­er­boards” for it are much cheap­er than for the LGA 1700, and for an office com­put­er or a com­put­er for games like World of Tanks or Dota 2, the proces­sors of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion are more than enough.

The LGA 1700 con­nec­tor and the LGA 1200 con­nec­tor dif­fer in size and num­ber of pins (1700 and 1200 respec­tive­ly). Source: tomshardware.com

LGA 2066 is anoth­er Intel sock­et. It is designed for pro­duc­tive work­sta­tions and servers. A com­put­er with such a moth­er­board will be very expen­sive and will only pay off when per­form­ing tasks that require max­i­mum com­put­ing pow­er.

LGA 2066 and an impres­sive set of RAM slots — 8 pieces. Source: wccftech.com

So, Intel has three actu­al proces­sor sock­ets:

  • LGA 1200, for medi­um PCs;
  • LGA 1700, for pow­er­ful gam­ing and work PCs;
  • LGA 2066, for pro­fes­sion­al com­put­ers and servers.

With AMD, the sit­u­a­tion is sim­pler — they change the proces­sor sock­et only if the lat­est devel­op­ments are not imple­ment­ed with­in the exist­ing one. There­fore, if you are buy­ing a desk­top proces­sor from AMD, then the choice is easy — only the AM4 sock­et is rel­e­vant.

AM4 — holes for the legs of the proces­sor are vis­i­ble. Source: knowtechie.com

Number of slots and type of RAM

RAM is tem­po­rary, fast data stor­age that can only work when the com­put­er is turned on.

Now there are moth­er­boards with con­nec­tors for DDR4 and DDR5 mem­o­ry.

4 RAM slots is enough for most users. Source: xda-developers.com

DDR4 RAM is still the best in terms of price and speed, but it is being replaced by DDR5 mem­o­ry. There­fore, it is bet­ter to choose the type of RAM based on the avail­abil­i­ty and cost at the time of pur­chase.

A sim­ple office com­put­er will fit a “moth­er­board” with two slots for RAM. Its small size does the job just fine.

For a gam­ing com­put­er, it is bet­ter to buy a moth­er­board with 4 or more slots, installing RAM in two of them. This will allow in the future to dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the RAM to the required amount by installing it in emp­ty slots, leav­ing those mod­ules that were already on the moth­er­board.

Serv­er moth­er­boards can have 8 slots or more.

Form factor

When choos­ing, you need to pay atten­tion to the form fac­tor of the moth­er­board.

It deter­mines the size of the moth­er­board, its mount­ings and the loca­tion of the exter­nal PC con­nec­tors.

Common Motherboard Form Factors

Form fac­tor Dimen­sions, mm Frame size
E‑ATX 305×330 Full Tow­er
ATX 305×244 Full-tow­er, mid-tow­er
microATX 244×244 Full-tow­er, mid-tow­er, mini-tow­er, slim
Mini-ITX 170x170 Full-tow­er, mid-tow­er, mini-tow­er, slim, desk­top
MP size is a com­pro­mise between fea­tures and com­pact­ness. Source: blog.logicalincrements.com

It is impor­tant to con­sid­er that a large moth­er­board will have more addi­tion­al expan­sion slots. And, on the con­trary, in pur­suit of a small com­put­er size, you can cut down on the abil­i­ty to con­nect devices to the moth­er­board.

For exam­ple, the Mini-ITX form fac­tor mea­sures only 170 by 170 mil­lime­ters. With such a moth­er­board, you can assem­ble a very com­pact com­put­er. For exam­ple, like this:

The NZXT H1 case mea­sures 40x20x20 cen­time­ters. Source: hardwarecanucks.com

A moth­er­board with a Mini-ITX form fac­tor can be of the fol­low­ing mod­el:

Moth­er­board ASUS PRIME A320I‑K for­mat Mini-ITX. Source: asus.com

But it has only 2 RAM slots, so you can install only one expan­sion device — a video card — and one M.2 con­nec­tor. At the same time, the price of such a “moth­er­board” is close to the mid­dle seg­ment.

motherboard chipset

RAM, a dis­crete graph­ics card, and high-speed dri­ves require high-speed com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the proces­sor, so they are con­nect­ed to it direct­ly through high-speed bus­es.

Slow­er devices are con­nect­ed through a spe­cial chipset, or chipset. Its mod­el is indi­cat­ed by a Latin let­ter and num­bers and is usu­al­ly includ­ed in the full name of the moth­er­board.

The moth­er­board chipset, a heatsink is not installed at the fac­to­ry, in this case it is removed. Source: anandtech.com

The proces­sor and chipset must inter­act well. There­fore, for Intel proces­sors, chipsets are pro­duced by Intel itself, and for AMD, respec­tive­ly, by AMD.

At the begin­ning of the name of the chipset, Intel and AMD have Latin let­ters, by which you can deter­mine its lev­el.

Intel has the fol­low­ing chipsets:

  • B and H — for medi­um and entry-lev­el PCs, with­out over­clock­ing and fine-tun­ing func­tions in the BIOS;
  • Z — for fast gam­ing or work PCs, with the abil­i­ty to over­clock the proces­sor and RAM;
  • X — for proces­sors with an LGA 2066 sock­et.

AMD has a sim­i­lar choice:

  • A — entry-lev­el chipsets with­out over­clock­ing capa­bil­i­ties;
  • B, Z — medi­um lev­el with over­clock­ing;
  • X, TRX — for AMD Ryzen Thread­rip­per proces­sor lines, for Hi-End class PCs.

In gen­er­al, moth­er­board man­u­fac­tur­ers put exact­ly the chipset that is need­ed to imple­ment all the func­tions of a par­tic­u­lar moth­er­board. Know­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of the chipsets by heart, a com­put­er sci­en­tist can already approx­i­mate­ly under­stand what the moth­er­board can do by its name. An ordi­nary user can go to the man­u­fac­tur­er’s web­site or a trust­ed online store and look at the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the moth­er­board there.

Number of M.2 connectors

The fastest dri­ves for per­son­al com­put­ers are M.2 SSDs. For them, mod­ern moth­er­boards have spe­cial con­nec­tors. The quan­ti­ty deter­mines how many dri­ves can be installed on a PC.

Mod­ern SSD dri­ves are small and are insert­ed into a spe­cial slot. Source: how-fixit.in.ua

External connectors

The moth­er­board allows you to con­nect to the com­put­er and var­i­ous periph­er­al devices. To do this, there is always a spe­cial slot on the case where exter­nal con­nec­tors go.

A mod­ern moth­er­board with up-to-date con­nec­tors, Wi-Fi anten­na mounts and a BIOS reset but­ton. Source: cgdirector.com

A mod­ern com­put­er needs USB 3 slots. Sev­er­al are desir­able. If you plan to use the proces­sor’s inte­grat­ed graph­ics to dis­play the image on the mon­i­tor, you should look for a board with HDMI and Dis­play­Port.

Availability of Wi-Fi

It is not always pos­si­ble to con­nect a com­put­er to a wired net­work. If the wire­less con­nec­tion speed is suf­fi­cient, you can buy a moth­er­board with a built-in Wi-Fi adapter and con­nect your com­put­er through it.

There are also impres­sive exter­nal anten­nas for con­nect­ing via Wi-Fi. Source: cgdirector.com

Which video card to buy: budget and expensive motherboards

Inexpensive motherboards

Gigabyte H510M H

Giga­byte H510M H is a great option for an inex­pen­sive sys­tem unit, it has an LGA 1200 sock­et and an M.2 con­nec­tor for high-speed SSD dri­ves.

Giga­byte H510M H is a reli­able bud­get moth­er­board. Source: gigabyte.ru

Asrock A320M-DVS R4.0

Asrock A320M-DVS R4.0 — this moth­er­board, despite the very afford­able price, sup­ports all mod­ern AMD proces­sors.

The moth­er­board for the AMD proces­sor can be bought very inex­pen­sive­ly. Source: asrock.com

Mid-Segment Motherboards

MSI Pro B660M‑P WiFi DDR4

MSI Pro B660M‑P WiFi DDR4 will help you assem­ble a small com­put­er with a mod­ern Intel proces­sor, a good amount of RAM and Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi card and anten­nas for it are includ­ed with the moth­er­board. Source: msi.com

Gigabyte B660M DS3H AX DDR4

Giga­byte B660M DS3H AX DDR4 is a mod­el with an LGA 1700 sock­et and built-in Wi-Fi. The proces­sor pow­er sys­tem allows you to safe­ly install proces­sors up to Core i9.

The moth­er­board has a heatsink for M.2 dri­ves. With it, your SSD dri­ve will not over­heat. Source: gigabyte.com

Expensive motherboards

Asus Prime Z690‑P DDR5

Asus Prime Z690‑P DDR5 is a moth­er­board that sup­ports the lat­est DDR5 RAM.

DDR5, 3x M.2, 3x full-size PCI‑E, and a futur­is­tic design, this is what a top moth­er­board looks like. Source: asus.com

MSI Mag B660 Tomahawk WiFi DDR5

MSI Mag B660 Tom­a­hawk WiFi DDR5 is a gam­ing moth­er­board for build­ing the most pow­er­ful sys­tem unit.

Named after the cruise mis­sile, the mod­el sup­ports up to 6200MHz RAM and Intel Optane media for faster oper­at­ing sys­tem and appli­ca­tions. Source: msi.com

Conclusions: what to look for when buying a motherboard

It is easy to get lost in the vari­ety of moth­er­boards. There are many mod­els with sim­i­lar para­me­ters in online stores, so it is impor­tant to deter­mine your goals.

If you are look­ing for a com­put­er for home, office or gam­ing, the first thing to con­sid­er is the proces­sor, RAM, and dis­crete graph­ics card if required. And only then pay atten­tion to the moth­er­board.

The “moth­er­board” does not have its own mem­o­ry or pro­cess­ing pow­er. There­fore, it is pos­si­ble to assem­ble a pro­duc­tive com­put­er — for exam­ple, for the most mod­ern games — using a cheap moth­er­board. True, the reli­a­bil­i­ty of such a solu­tion is ques­tion­able, since the pow­er sup­ply sys­tem of the moth­er­board will be over­loaded.

On the oth­er hand, you can buy a top moth­er­board for 20,000 rubles and put a cheap Celeron in it. But on such an assem­bly, it will only be pos­si­ble to work with text edi­tors or per­form oth­er sim­ple tasks.

The choice of moth­er­board affects the reli­a­bil­i­ty, com­pat­i­bil­i­ty, and expand­abil­i­ty of the com­put­er. And the price should be bal­anced with oth­er com­po­nents.

Read also:

How to choose a proces­sor

How to choose a video card