The motherboard is an integral part of the workstation since every PC component gets plugged into it. Depending upon its form factor and chipset, you have to decide what kind of processor will go with it. Thus the performance & selection of your CPU & GPU also depends upon the motherboard you choose. While the entry-level or mid-range motherboard list consists of several crucial components and features, the complexity increases in high-range models. So what features do you need to look at primarily for motherboard comparison? Don’t worry, I have made a checklist of crucial specs to compare to make the comparison process easy for you. Let’s see.
How to Compare Motherboards to Pick the Right One?You can use any reliable motherboard comparison website to compare your desired choices. But while comparing them, here are a few important specifications and factors you should always check first to pick the best motherboard for your PC:
|Form Factor||Decides how many ports and expansion slots a motherboard can have based on its size||Higher the better for high-end PCs|
|Processor Socket||Determines processor’s compatibility with motherboard||Must be of Same generation for better compatibility|
|RAM Slots||Determines how much RAM modules you can add for upgradation||Higher the better|
|Ports||Decides what type of devices and processors you can connect with motherboard||Higher the better|
|Storage Connections||Requires for connecting HDD or SSD or both with motherboard||Higher the better|
|GPU Support||Determines how many and what type of GPUs you can connect with motherboard||Higher the better|
|Expansion Slots||Let you add various hardware to motherboard for expansion||Higher the better|
|Warranty||Requires for initial maintenance or replacement of damaged parts||Higher the better|
Form FactorThe first and foremost aspect of motherboard comparison is its form factor. Motherboards come in three sizes: Mini ITX, Mini ATX and ATX for flexibility. If you have heavy requirements and plenty of space, you should go for the largest one, i.e. the ATX. However, you can choose Mini ITX or Mini ATX for a slim chassis if you have a mini-board or fewer requirements. The bigger the form factor, the more expansion slots you can add. The ATX motherboard can only fit in an ATX case and a similar goes for MiniATX & MiniITX. So, depending upon the size of your PC case, you can do a Motherboard form factor comparison and the compatibility test. Here are the primary differences between all three sizes of Motherboards:
|Mini ATX||Mini ITX||ATX|
|Size||9.6 x 9.6 inches||9.0 x 7.5 inches||12 x 9.6 inches|
|RAM Slots||Up to 4||2||Up to 8|
|GPUs you can connect||Up to 3||1||Up to 4|
|SATA Port||Up to 8||Up to 6||Up to 12|
Chipset & Processor SocketOnce you are done with motherboard size comparison, the next comparison aspect is its processor socket compatibility with the processors (CPU & GPU). Every motherboard has plenty of pin holes on its processor socket, designed to fit specifically with a compatible processor with the same number of pins. LGA 1700 is the latest one compatible with the 12th Gen Intel Core processor. Currently, three types of processor sockets are widely famous, i.e. LGA, PGA and BGA. LGA is compatible with Intel processors, while PGA is with AMD processors. BGA is not as popular as the other two because it is permanently attached to the motherboard, making it non-upgradable or non-serviceable.
|LGA 1700||12th-generation Intel Core||Alder Lake (12th-gen): H610, B660, H670, Q670, Z690, W680|
|LGA 1200||11th-generation Intel Core|
10th-generation Intel Core
|Rocket Lake (11th-gen): H510, B560, H570, Q570, Z590, W580
Comet Lake (10th-gen): H410, B460, H470, Q470, Z490, W480
|LGA 1151||8th and 9th-generation Intel Core||Coffee Lake (8th-gen): H310, B360, H370, Q370, Z370
Coffee Lake (9th-gen): Z390, B365, B360
|LGA 2066||Skylake-X/Kaby-Lake X||X299|
|AM5||4th-generation AMD Ryzen||X670, X670E, B650|
|sTRX4||3rd-generation AMD Ryzen Threadripper||TRX40|
|sTR4||AMD Ryzen Threadripper||X399|
|AM4||AMD Ryzen, 7th-generation A-Series, and Athlon||A300, A320, B350, B450, X370, X470, X570|
RAM SlotsRange: 2-8 DIMM slots with 1GB to 128GB RAM capacity Every motherboard has rectangular RAM slots that decide how much RAM you can add to your PC to upgrade its memory per your workload. These RAM slots are named DIMM (dual in-line memory module). Typically there are two to eight DIMM slots on a motherboard, depending upon its form factor. The capacity of these DIMMs ranges from 1GB to 128GB. At once, you can add only one RAM module but in pairs. For example: if your PC already has 8GB RAM and you want to upgrade it to 16GB, you can buy 2 8GB kits to add in pairs or 4 4GB kits (depending upon the number of slots you have on your motherboard). It is better not to use all the slots at once, so you can add more RAM later if required. So, when comparing different motherboards, check how many slots you need to configure RAM according to your workload. Also, there are different generations of RAM referred to as DDR. The latest one is DDR5, which offers high speed and is compatible with high-capacity modules. DDR5 RAM is currently supported in Intel’s Alder Lake motherboards, while AMD 3rd Generation Ryzen is compatible with DDR4.
Connectors & PortsRange: 2 – 6 Ports There are several connections and ports available on motherboards internally and externally. While comparing various motherboards, look at how many USB and other ports you get with external connections for ease of usage. Some of the popular and common ports you get on a motherboard are:
- USB 2.0: An essential port to connect keyboard, mouse and multiple devices.
- USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1: These ports are generally faster than USB 2.0 and are compatible with most peripherals.
- USB 3.1/3.2 Gen 2: These ports are even faster (offer double bandwidth) than USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 ports; however, they are usually available only in mid or high-range motherboards.
- USB Type-C: Designed to connect with the latest devices and USB-C headsets, these ports can either be USB Type 3.1 Gen 1 or Gen 2 compatible. So, depending upon the type of devices you want to connect, you can choose.
- DisplayPort/HDMI Port: These ports are handy when you use an integrated graphics card. If you go for a discrete graphics card, they have their own HDMI or DisplayPorts.
- Audio Ports: Audio ports are usually few to see these days as most devices come with wireless or Bluetooth connectivity. However, having them allows you to connect speakers or any other audio device for streaming, recording and other purposes.
- Thunderbolt or PS/2 Port: Thunderbolt ports offer the fastest possible connections (up to 40 Gbps), making them a must-have for the latest gen devices. However, they are hard to come in-built on motherboards as the latest one offers them on dedicated add-on cards.
Storage ConnectionsRange: SATA ports – 1-8, M.2 or NVMe slots – 1-6 There are two types of storage for your data on a PC: HDD (hard disk drive) with moving components and SSD (solid state drive) with flash memory. SSDs are more popular than HDDs due to their fast performance but are costlier. So, most users prefer to use a combination of HDD and SSD for their storage needs. For both kinds of storage, motherboards have storage connections internally and externally. The most common storage connection is SATA (Serial ATA), and its latest version SATA 3.0, comes with an excellent transfer rate of 600Mbps or 6Gbps read and write for SSDs and 150 Mbps for HDDs. Another popular storage connection type in modern motherboards is NVMe or NVM Express, which connects to M.2 or PCle Slot. This latest connection protocol offers better transfer speed, low latency and several other advantages. The average speed provided by NVMe SSDs is up to 3GB/s read and 1.5GB/s write. These SSDs come in two variants: cards to plug into PCle slots or compact chips to plug into M.2 connections. There can be several ports for SSD and HDD ports on motherboards. So, while comparing various motherboards, check how many SATA and NVMe ports it offers. Generally, the motherboard offers at least 6 SATA ports and 2 NVMe slots. As you go for high-range variants, the number of storage connections increases. So, If you have more storage requirements today or might in the future, going for a large number of ports will be better.
GPU SupportLike CPU, you must check your GPU’s compatibility with the motherboard processor socket and chipset. Not all types of GPUs are supported by all motherboards. They are designed specifically and differently for both Intel and NVIDIA chipsets. You can go for the integrated GPU or APU with CPU for normal graphics requirements. However, you need a discrete GPU if you want to run more graphically demanding games or design software. If you go for a standalone GPU, you must check which kind of GPUs are supported by your motherboard and how many of them you can connect with. The majority of motherboards have PCIe x 16 slots to connect various GPUs. Many GPUs require the width of two PCle slots to connect with the motherboard. Some GPUs consume all the 75 Watts power of the PCIe slot, while the other requires an external power supply through a six or eight-pin connector. In a compatible motherboard, you need SLI (Scalable Link Interface) by NVIDIA or Crossfire by AMD to connect two or more GPUs. So during a motherboard chipset comparison, don’t forget to check all these points.
Types & Number of Expansion SlotsRange: 2 – 6 Slots Every motherboard comes with a variety of expansion slots. However, the number and types of expansion slots vary in different motherboards; that is what you need to compare while choosing the right one.
- PCI Slot: Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) is motherboards’ most common expansion slot that allows you to connect add-on controller cards and other devices. It comes in both 32 and 64-bit versions. The most common on PC motherboards is 32-bit, while the 64-bit is usually for server computers. In ATX AGP motherboards, there are usually 4-6 PCI slots, while in ATX PCIe slots, one or two PCI slots are replaced by PCIe slots.
- PCI Express Slot: To install or connect external hardware to your motherboard to enhance the PC’s performance, you need a PCI Express or Expansion slot. Depending upon the motherboard model, the number and size of PCIe slots differ. Generally, there are four types of PCIe slots:
- x1 Slot: It is a general-purpose expansion slot with a single PCIe lane that can be used for audio cards, USB adapters or 1GB network adapters. Very few expansion cards fit into them and thus are of little use.
- x4 Slot: It has four lanes that can be used to connect more powerful cards like 4K video cards, NVMe M.2 SSD expansion card, 10G ethernet, etc.
- x16 Slot: It has the largest number of slots (16 slots) for expansion and is thus most commonly used for graphics card expansion.
- x16 Slot with x8 bandwidth: It is the same in size as the x16 slot but with half PCIe lanes, i.e. 8. These are most commonly used for multi-GPU configuration.
Video SlotA motherboard can dedicatedly have either AGP or PCIe video slots (from zero to two). Depending on your video slot, you can connect only that kind of video card with it. Currently, the PCIe x16 video slot is more popular than the AGP one.
ManufacturerTo get the best motherboard for you, don’t forget to compare various manufacturers and choose the right one. Manufacturers differ significantly in the quality and list of motherboards they offer. Some manufacturers build motherboards primarily aimed at professional gamers and graphics editors, such as Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, etc. On the other hand, manufacturers like Intel build motherboards primarily for mainstream work requirements. So, depending upon your requirements, you can choose which manufacturer has better features to offer you. It is always better to go for a reputable manufacturer than the less-known one to get quality components. Check motherboard reviews of various manufacturing brands to pick the right one.
PricingRange – $50 – $1000 Depending upon your requirements and features, you can get a motherboard for as low as $50 to as high as $1000. However, motherboards between $500-$1000 are extremely premium and suitable only for high-end processors and expansion requirements. For entry-level or moderate work and gaming requirements, brands like Intel and AMD have some great motherboards to offer you between $100-$300.
- Under $100: If you have moderate work requirements, you can get AMD overclocking motherboards (like the X370 chipset) or Intel’s motherboard with the stock speed in this range. You can even buy a Wi-Fi-equipped motherboard starting from $80.
- Up to $150: Under $150, you can go for a high-end range of AMD overclockable motherboards like the X570 chipset or Intel’s mid-tier overclockable motherboards like Z490 or Z590 chipsets. Also, you can have some additional premium features like RGB lighting and WiFi in this range.
- For $200: Under this range, you can have high-end or premium tier overclockable motherboards with features like RGB lights, better port selection and power phases with USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 2 connectors.
- For $250: If you want the recent chipsets of Intel and AMD like Z490 and Z590 with high core counts, such as AMD threadripper or Intel Core X, the premium price range starts from $250.