Last updated: September 10, 2020

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The concept of the modular motherboard that we know today was created in the 1980s by IBM engineer Patty McHugh. Its development considerably simplified how the various hardware components interacted, therefore facilitating the overall design of computers.

Nowadays, motherboards are an indispensable element of computers and many electronic devices, as they are the link between all the other components. If you intend to buy a new one, you will naturally need to make sure that it is compatible with all of these parts and that you can expand it further in the future.

Key Facts

  • The motherboard is a fundamental element of computers since the rest of the components are connected to it – from the microprocessor to the graphics card, the RAM (Random Access Memory), the monitor, or the keyboard itself.
  • Make sure that your new motherboard is compatible with the processor you want to install. In that regard, you have to pay attention to the brand but also the processor model itself.
  • Whether you want to replace your computer’s motherboard or mount your very own PC, it is essential that you know more about this fundamental component. This is why we will look at the chipset, the CPU socket (Central Processing Unit), the RAM slots, as well as the connection ports available.

Our Selection: The Best Motherboards on the U.S. Market

In the following section, you will find our very own selection of the best motherboards currently available on the American market. Produced by renowned manufacturers, all of these products offer great value for money and overall quality.

Best Motherboard: Amazon’s Choice

The ROG Strix B450-F motherboard is a versatile and affordable model by ASUS, and its value for money has led it to become Amazon’s Choice in the category. This ATX motherboard is powered by an AMD processor and features an incredible number of connections – from DisplayPort and USB to HDMI and Ethernet. The ROG Strix B450-F can support up to 4 RAM modules of 16GB each, for a total of 64GB.

Best Intel Motherboard

This mid to high-range motherboard is designed for 8th and 9th-generation Intel Core processors and is compatible with overclocking. The ASUS Prime Z390-A features an LGA1151 CPU socket and various connectivity options for all your needs. This ATX motherboard can also support up to 4 RAM modules for 64GB in total.  This is a high-quality model that will withstand demanding tasks in the long run.

Best Budget-Friendly Motherboard

If you need a new motherboard for your computer but want to keep it very affordable, then look no further than the Gigabyte B450M DS3H. This microATX model offers quality performances and great connectivity options. Compatible with AMD Ryzen processors, this motherboard is ideal for mounting your own compact PC. You can even customize the external light strip of your computer, thanks to the RGB Fusion support.

Best Motherboard for Gamers

Now, we know that gaming can be extremely demanding for your computer, and you need a motherboard that can withstand this. The ROG Strix Z390-E is what you need for this. Compatible with Intel processors and featuring an LGA1151 CPU socket, this motherboard has a 5-way optimization system for overclocking when you need it. It can support up to 4 RAM modules for a total of 64GB.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Motherboards

It is essential that you evaluate several different aspects before buying your new motherboard. After all, the market offers a wide variety of models that are tailored to distinct user profiles. In the following section, we have tried to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding motherboards.

Young technician working on broken computer in his office

The motherboard is the spine of a computer.
(Source: Andor Bujdoso: 65640951/ 123rf.com)

What is a motherboard exactly?

Sometimes called a main circuit board, or more colloquially a mobo, this circuit board is responsible for connecting and controlling all the components of a computer. In other words, the motherboards are the backbone of PCs and, therefore, plays a crucial role in their performance. They are generally named according to the chipset that they integrate.

Why should I buy a motherboard?

There are three main reasons why you may want to buy a motherboard: to replace your computer’s motherboard to improve its performance, to replace it because it is failing or has broken down permanently, or to mount your own PC.

Either way, you should decide between opting for a long-term model or one that meets short-term requirements. As you can imagine, the former will be more expensive but also offer the possibility of improving or expanding some of the components in the future.

Female electronic engineer testing computer motherboard in labor

Mounting your own computer offers a number of great advantages.
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What are the advantages of mounting your own computer?

Creating your own PC component by component offers a large number of advantages. First of all, it tends to be more affordable than a ready-made device. In addition, you can choose which components you want to install in your computer and invest more in those that are more important to you.

You may also want to use a component from your old computer, make the most of a special offer, or even buy a second-hand motherboard. Designing your own device naturally requires a decent knowledge of hardware and a research process to find the right components.

What are the basic elements of a motherboard?

Motherboards integrate a number of essential elements. These include the ATX power connector, CPU socket, slots for RAM, PCI and PCI Express expansion slots, storage connectors, PS/2 connectors, graphics connectors, CMOS battery, USB and network ports, BIOS, and chipset.

  • ATX power connector: The mains power travels through it from the source to the motherboard.
  • CPU socket: This is where the processor – either Intel or AMD – is connected.
  • RAM slots: Desktop computers tend to have between two to eight slots. In laptop motherboards, on the other hand, this is often the only part that can be expanded.
  • PCI and PCI Express expansion slots: Designed to add new components, such as graphics or sound cards. PCI slots are considered obsolete and rarely found in the most recent motherboards.
  • Storage connectors: This is where you connect your hard disks, SSDs, DVD readers, and burners.
  • PS/2 connectors: They allow you to connect the keyboard and mouse.
  • Graphic connectors: Designed to connect the monitors, they can be DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, or even VGA.
  • USB ports: You can connect various peripherals – from mice and printers to USB sticks and external hard drives.
  • Network ports: They allow you to connect an Ethernet cable for your Internet connection.
  • BIOS (Basic Input/Output System): This read-only memory shelters the software that controls the hardware and that serves as the interface between the operating system and the computer’s hardware.
  • Chipset: It consists of a set of small circuits responsible for coordinating the flow of information to and from the various key components.
  • CMOS battery (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor): This lithium battery supplies the power necessary to feed the BIOS.
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There are now dozens of different motherboard formats.
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What motherboard formats are there?

Nowadays, there are dozens of different motherboard formats, each being tailored to one type of computer. However, we can identify the three most common models: the full-size form factor (ATX), the medium-size form factor (microATX), and the small form factor (mini-ITX). You can compare their main characteristics in the table below.

As you can imagine, the bigger the motherboard is, the more connectors and expansion possibilities it will offer. You should also bear in mind that the size of the motherboard determines the size of the PC case, thus affecting the cooling system you can mount.

ATX MicroATX Mini-ATX
Dimensions 305 x 244 mm 244 x 244 mm 170 x 170 mm
Use Its use is very wide, from gaming computers to office machines or work computers. It is generally found in office computers and small devices. It is designed for small PCs, cash registers, and many other small pieces of equipment.
Slots Up to seven expansion slots and four slots for RAM memory Five slots for expansion cards and up to four RAM modules One for expansion cards and two for RAM
Advantages Their larger surface area for integrated circuitry means they have more slots and expansion connectors for components. They are considerably cheaper than ATX motherboards. With them, you can mount smaller computers.

Why is overclocking so useful?

You may have heard of overclocking without knowing exactly what it is and what advantages it offers. First of all, you have to understand that the processor, the RAM, and the graphics card can all perform this. The aim of this technique is to increase the clock speed or the working frequency of a specific component.

In other words, you can increase its performance and speed. When it comes to the processor, both Intel and AMD models already integrate a technology that allows them to increase their frequency automatically. In any case, the processor and the motherboard need to be unlocked and be overclocking compatible for you to do this.

Shopping Criteria

You should pay attention to various key criteria before purchasing your new motherboard. We want to make your life easier, which is why we have detailed these different aspects in the following section. Once you familiarize yourself with these criteria and identify your personal needs, you will be ready to make a successful purchase.

Format

Before deciding on a specific format, evaluate your use of the device and whether you intend to make any additions to it in the future or not. Unless you have very particular needs, you should start by opting for the ATX or microATX format. Both are quite flexible and offer good expansion options.

ATX motherboards are compatible with virtually any PC case. On the other hand, the microATX format is ideal if your budget is more limited. If your PC integrates liquid cooling with multiple graphics cards and three or more storage units, the XL-ATX and E-ATX form factors are excellent.

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The chipset is the communication center and data traffic controller of a computer.
(Source: Andor-Bujdoso: 65640951/ 123rf.com)

CPU Socket

This component determines which processor you can install, which is why you need to ensure that your motherboard’s socket is compatible with the processor you want to install. Right now, the Intel LGA 1151 and LGA 2066 and the AMD AM4 and TR4 are some of the more common ones. However, there are many more.

Intel uses the LGA 2011 and LGA 2011-3 sockets for higher ranges and server processors, while it goes for the LGA 1151 for home use. AMD uses FM2 and FM2+ sockets for its processors with integrated graphics, and AM4, AM3 or AM3+ sockets for most home processors.

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“Computers themselves, and software yet to be developed, will revolutionize the way we learn.”

Circuit Quality

The quality of the motherboard’s construction influences both the proper functioning of other computer components and the overall life of the device, which is why this is so important. If you only want to use your PC for basic office tasks, you won’t need a motherboard with capacitors and circuits that offer high performance.

This is very different if you intend to impose high workloads on your computer or if you want to overclock it. If that’s the case, it is essential that you choose a model with high-quality circuits and feed-in phases, since your motherboard will be subjected to high electrical demands. As you can imagine, the higher the quality, the higher the price.

Chipset

The chipset is basically the communication center and data traffic controller of the motherboard. In addition, it determines which components are or aren’t compatible with it. In the same vein, we can differentiate chipsets for Intel processors and those for AMD processors. Here is a list of some of the best models currently on the market:

  • Intel B360: Low-range chipset without overclocking and RAID support, but with SSD support. Ideal if you want to build an inexpensive computer.
  • Intel H370: It cannot overclock either, but it does have support for RAID and SSD drives. It is used on affordable motherboards and is ideal for mid-range gaming devices.
  • Intel Z390: This top-quality model allows overclocking and is suitable for high-end gaming computers. You are recommended to install a K-series processor, as well as 4,500 MHz RAM or lower.
  • Intel X299: This chipset is the very best of Intel. Particularly suitable for workstations or computers designed for the most demanding tasks.
  • AMD A320: AMD’s low-end chipset doesn’t allow overclocking or multiple graphics cards. Designed for the most affordable devices.
  • AMD B450: It can overclock and accepts various graphic cards. This is a particularly exciting option for mid-range gaming computers.
  • AMD X470: Designed for high-end gaming PCs, it naturally supports overclocking and various graphics cards.
  • AMD X399: AMD’s top-of-the-line chipset, it is tailored to those who want or need very powerful equipment, either for design or workstations.

Graphics Card(s)

Start by making sure that the motherboard you buy is compatible with the graphics card you will be mounting. If you plan on installing two or more cards to improve your computer’s performance for gaming, for instance, it is also essential that your motherboard supports more than one card.

If this is the case, the manufacturer generally states it very clearly. SLI (Scalable Link Interface) is the multi-GPU system for Nvidia graphics cards, while Crossfire is the equivalent system for ATI/AMD graphics cards. Always check the number of cards that your motherboard can support.

Summary

When you decide to assemble your very own computer component by component, the choice of the motherboard is determining in the configuration of the rest of your device. If you need one to replace the motherboard of your PC, on the other hand, you will need to adapt it to your existing components.

This is why you will have to take into account a series of different aspects before making your purchase. These include the motherboard format, the socket, chipset, and connections it features, as well as the quality of its circuits and the type and number of graphics cards it is compatible with. In case you want to increase the performance of your computer in the future, you should consider a motherboard with possible expansion options.

We hope that you found our shopping guide on motherboards helpful and interesting. If that’s the case, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article on your social media.

(Source of featured image: bee32: 72668634/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.