Most of the PC gamers build their own PCs, instead of buying a pre-assembled one..
It’s because at the end of the day (if you have done your research properly), you’ll have a pretty awesome PC in a far less price than a pre-built PC with that many specs and features.
So if you want to make your own PC, the motherboard is actually one of the first component you’ll need. But a lot of people feel intimidated by the sheer number of options out there. Not all of those motherboard models are suitable for gaming.
That’s why here we will discuss how you can choose a gaming motherboard compatible with your processor and other components.
6 Things You Need To Look For In A Gaming Motherboard
1. Motherboard Manufacturers
Many people don’t usually go with the big brands when looking for any computer-related accessory, but motherboards are a bit different. Heavy-duty activities, such as gaming, put a lot of stress on your motherboard and CPU.
That’s why it’s advisable to buy a gaming motherboard from a reputable gaming hardware manufacturer, such as ASUS, ASRock, and Gigabyte.
One big advantage of buying a motherboard from these manufacturers is some additional bells and whistles not offered by other hardware manufacturers, such as reinforced PCIe slots, and customizable RGB lighting.
2. Form Factor
In terms of form factor, there are different types of motherboards in the market, and each of them have its own pros and cons. Although motherboards come in a lot of different sizes, we will discuss only 3 of them because they are the most suitable ones for gaming.
a) Standard ATX
Standard ATX is the most common type of motherboards out there.
These motherboards are generally more expensive as compared to m-atx boards but cheaper than e-atx boards. Since they have seven expansion slots, you can fit seven single-slot expansion cards, or four dual-slot expansion cards in this board (only if it’s installed in a case with eight rear expansion card openings).
This makes standard ATX the minimum size (12 × 9.6 inches) that can accommodate a 3-way or 4-way SLI graphics card configuration. In additional to the usual 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors, some ATX motherboards also come with a separate CPU power connector.
Due to their large size, you can have as much as 8 RAMs installed in ATX boards, and have more ports than the micro ATX boards.
Being larger than Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX boards mean you can’t fit ATX boards into the computer cases made for the previous two boards.
With the dimension of 9.6 × 9.6 inches, micro ATX boards are a bit smaller than standard ATX boards. They can fit into an ATX case, but not in the one that’s made for a mini-ITX board. As far as performance and features are concerned, micro-ATX boards can do almost as many things as their bigger siblings, with a couple of restrictions due to their size.
First one of those restrictions is the number of memory slots. You can only have 2 to 4 memory slots in micro-ATX boards. The number of expansion slots is also less. They can have 4 single-slot expansion cards, at most, or 2 dual-slot expansion cards along with one single-slot expansion card between them.
All of this means that a micro ATX board can only have half graphical power (in theory) when compared to an ATX board. In terms of connectivity, they usually feature a 24-pin connector along with either a 4-pin or an 8-pin CPU connector.
c) Mini ITX
Unlike all the above-discussed motherboard forms, this one is developed by Via technologies. A Mini ITX board will work with both standard and Micro ATX computer cases, because with the dimensions of 6.7 × 6.7 inches, these boards are really small.
In recent times, these boards have become capable of handling high computing, becoming a popular options for those who want a portable gaming computer. These boards come with 2 memory slots and only one expansion slot. This may seem underwhelming, but it’s not. You can easily have a quad-core CPU along with 16 GB RAM in a mini ITX board.
Due to their really small size, they have some disadvantages though. First, they have even less number of ports than micro ATX boards. To compensate shortage of ports, these boards often come with built-in wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. Second, many high-end CPUs don’t support mini ITX boards. Last but not the least, you can’t use them for overclocking.
These boards come with 24-pin connector and a 4-pin CPU connector.
After deciding the form factor, the next important thing you need to look at, while checking out a motherboard, is its socket type.
A socket is an interface through which a processor is attached unto the motherboard. If you buy a motherboard with incompatible socket, then you won’t be able to install the processor. Even if you fit a processor in that socket somehow, the chances are pretty high that you’ll unintentionally break the CPU pins, making your processor useless.
As you may have realized by now, an incompatible socket is a loss-loss situation.
4. Model of Your Motherboard
Apart from socket number, you also need to look at the model of your motherboard. Since you’re buying a motherboard for your gaming PC, there’s a chance that you will do some CPU overclocking in the future. And because every motherboard is not compatible with overclocking, you need to make sure that you’re getting a motherboard which suits your needs – depending on whether you want to overclock or not.
5. Memory Compatibility
Another important thing in choosing a motherboard, is checking its memory compatibility. Most motherboards support either DDR3 or DDR4 RAM. Depending on the type of RAM you already have, you should go for any one of those two motherboards types.
If you don’t have a RAM right now, or planning to buy a new one in future, it’s good to go for a DDR4 compatible motherboard, since they’re fast and cheaper than DDR3 RAMs.
Other than this, you also need to look at the maximum RAM memory a motherboard can support. Most modern games require 8/16 GB RAM storage, but it’s not bad to go upwards if your budget allows you to do so.
This way you’re future-proofing your gaming rig.
6. Ports, Expansion Slots, And Other Features
Now that you’ve shortlisted motherboards that are compatible with your processor and RAM, it’s time to make sure those motherboards have enough ports to attach your additional hardware accessories, such as your keyboard and mouse.
In terms of ports, a motherboard should have at least 2 USB 3.0 ports. In case you have a greater budget, you can also look out for more expensive motherboards since they come with USB Type-C and ThunderBolt ports.
On the other hand, expansion slots are used to install different hardware components into your computer, such as graphics card, sound card, and wireless card.
Budget motherboards may only come with a single graphics card slot. So, If you want to attach multiple graphics cards, you’ll need to spend a bit more and buy a motherboard that supports two graphics card as well as SLI.
Some motherboards come with additional features such as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity etc. It’s good to have them but they’re not necessary, because you can easily replace them with external modules, such as USB WiFi adapters etc.
Choosing a motherboard is definitely not an easy task, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. But if you do this part correctly, then the whole PC building thing will become much easier. In case you feel any problem, don’t hesitate to comment below. You can even use reddit or some gaming-related forums for this purpose.