If you are in the market looking for a custom-built gaming computer or prebuilt PC, the one component that you need to pay special attention to while shopping is the motherboard. It is the fundamental part of every computer. The choice of motherboard decides which other components like RAM, CPU, or GPU you can use. So, choose wisely as this can enable you or hinder you in the future if you want to upgrade the system.
Related: How To Test Motherboard?
If your motherboard does not support the latest CPUs, you will be stuck with old-generation chips. Below are some of the details about motherboards and things to keep an eye on while buying a gaming motherboard.
What is a Motherboard?
A motherboard is the circuit board on which all the different parts of a computer are installed, and the board integrates them all, which makes a computer functional. It is the backbone of a computer. It is also called a printed circuit board. has slots and sockets for holding different components like the central processing unit (CPU), the graphics processing unit (GPU), RAM, ROM, and hard disk. This circuit board connects all the parts. You can also upgrade the specifications in the future if you want. However, this depends on your motherboard’s capacity and model.
Things to Look For
Here is the list of things you need to keep in mind while buying a motherboard for gaming.
The first thing that you need to look at is the CPU support of the motherboard. You should choose a motherboard that supports the latest generation processor. Even if at the time of shopping you choose an older chip due to money restraints, this motherboard support helps you to swap your CPU with the latest one in the future when you have the money.
also read: How To Choose A Motherboard
Each motherboard contains a socket where the CPU is fixed. This socket type determines the type and generation of the chip that can be installed. There are mainly two types of sockets: an LGA socket and an AM4 socket. The LGA sockets support Intel chips while AMD uses the AM4 sockets. All the mainstream AMD processors can be integrated into the AM4 socket. However, that is not the case with Intel. The latest 10th or 11th generation chips use an LGA 1200 socket while the older chips use LGA 1151 socket.
So, while selecting your motherboard look for one that fulfills your current gaming needs and gives you the expansion capability to upgrade your processor without changing the whole motherboard.
The graphics processing unit or GPU is a component in every computer that gives the display output. Most of the latest processor chips come with an integrated GPU for display purposes. These are the GPUs with less power and cannot work for video editing or gaming. To perform such heavy tasks, you need to choose a more powerful external GPU.
also read: How To Stop Your Computer From Crashing?
To use an external GPU, you must know the slots available on the motherboard and its GPU support. Most GPUs require a PCIe slot for their installation. Make sure that your board has the latest PCIe 3.0 slots. The next thing to look for is the space available for the GPU on board. Make sure that there is enough room for your GPU and also that there are at least 2 PCIe slots on the motherboard for installing two GPUs simultaneously.
These checks are necessary as the GPU is the most important component for gaming computers. The latest games require high-end and latest graphics cards. For this reason, while buying your motherboard make sure to check the specifications of your GPU against the motherboard.
RAM or Random Access Memory is one of the two types of computer memory. It is the volatile memory and stores information when the computer is connected to an AC power source. The RAM controls the speed of a computer. Nowadays, most computers at least have 4 GB of RAM. However, for gaming computers, you need at least 8 GB of RAM and 16 GB or above for extreme use like video editing and high-end games.
also read: How To Stop Your Computer From Crashing?
Now the thing you want to see while buying your gaming motherboard is the number of RAM slots available. These slots are called ‘the dual in-line memory module’ (DIMM). The number of DIMMs on a motherboard determines the capacity of RAM that can be installed. The range of DIMMs slots is from 2 to 8. More slots mean better performance as then the RAMs can be used in matched pairs. For example, if there are 4 RAM slots and you want to use 16 GB of RAM then instead of using 2 sticks of 8GB each you can use 4 sticks of 4GB each. This pairing will benefit by distributing the load, which in turn means fast apps loading and boot speed.
For these above-mentioned reasons, you need to pay special attention to the ram slots and maximum capacity of the RAM that can be installed while shopping for a gaming motherboard.
Motherboards come in different sizes. The choice depends on your workspace. If you have plenty of room then you should go for a large motherboard, which will give you the maximum expansion capacity. On the other hand, if you want something small that can easily fit under your table and do not consume much space then a small mini ITX motherboard is the best choice. Here we have discussed all the three types of motherboards based on their size so that you can easily pick one up according to your need.
The three types are:
- ATX: It is the standard size used for tower PCs and it allows maximum expansion capacity.
- Micro ATX: It is a little smaller in size than ATX motherboards and thus offers limited expansion options.
- Mini ITX: This is the smallest motherboard. Mini ITX boards are compact but still, they can be used for decent gaming computers. However, they usually allow only one PCIe slot for GPU and less RAM and storage slots.
The next thing that we recommend you keep an eye on while selecting your motherboard is the storage connectors. These connectors are for both internal and external storage devices. The most common internal storage options are hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD). The SSDs are faster than the HDDs but are also more expensive.
The connectors used nowadays are called SATA ports. SATA 3.0 is the latest version which provides a transfer rate of up to 6 gigabytes per second. While buying your motherboard you should go for the one having multiple connection ports as this allows you to use multiple storage devices. We recommend you use an SSD and an HDD at the same time. You can save your operating system and other important applications on the SSD for quick boot and loading while all the other data like movies and files can be used on the cheaper and much larger HDD. Also, go for the motherboard with multiple external storage ports for devices such as external hard disks and USBs.
Some of the important connection ports like the PCIe slots for GPUs, DIMMs for Ram, and SATA ports for storage devices have already been discussed. However, there are other ports that motherboards have and are used for connecting input and output devices. Most of these ports are on the rear of your computer in an input/output (IO) panel. These ports are discussed below.
- USB ports: The most common USB ports are the USB 2, 3.0, 3.1, and Type-C ports. These ports are used for connecting most of the devices nowadays from Keyboards to USBs and even your mobile phones. The USB 3.0 and Type C are the latest versions, and they provide fast transfer use. We recommend you go for the motherboards having a mix of all these ports.
- HDMI port: An HDMI or display port allows for the video output. You will need this slot if you want to use the integrated graphics. On the other hand, the external GPUs have their display ports.
- Audio ports: These are very common ports and are familiar to everyone. They are used for connecting your audio devices like speakers and headsets.
- Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt ports are not that common. The new and upcoming motherboards support this technology. This allows for the fastest connection of up to 40 Gbps.
Motherboard expansion options:
As we have discussed above that all the components of a computer are installed on the motherboard. Some of the important ports are PCIe ports, DIMM, and SATA ports. While buying a motherboard for gaming you should go for a one having additional ports than you need at that time. This way you can increase your specifications if you need them in the future.
Make sure that you have at least 4 DIMM ports for RAM expansion and for dividing the load f by using ram in pairs.
also read: What Motherboard Do I Have On Windows 10?
The other expansion option that can be beneficial is the use of PCIe ports for graphics cards. Usually, a single GPU is enough for gaming, but for heavy usage like playing high-end latest online games and for video editing, some users need two GPUs. If that is the case for you then buy a motherboard with at least 2 GPU ports. Also, you need to make sure that there is enough space on the board for the installation of two or more GPUs.
The last important expansion port that you should check while buying your gaming motherboard is that of the storage devices. Make sure that you have multiple SATA ports onboard to install both SSD and HDD at the same time in addition to that of other devices like optical drives e.t.c.
Gamers usually want both looks and performance. If you want aesthetics, then go for the motherboards that have internal RGB lights. Just make sure to buy a case having a glass side because with the normal case these lights are of no use. So, pick up a motherboard having some nice lights and an easy control system and pair it with a nice glass PC case. Besides, you can also use LED RAMs and fans having RGB lights to enhance the look of your computer.
All the features that should be kept in mind while buying a gaming motherboard are discussed. Now the questions arise which vendors to trust as far as the motherboards are concerned. Numerous brands are offering their motherboards in the market. We have shortlisted some of the best brands that you could consider while looking for a motherboard. ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock are the most trusted and reliable brands in the market right now.
Related buyer’s Guide: