The motherboard, in English motherboard, is nothing more than support that incorporates and connects the various components of a personal computer. Created by the engineer Patty McHugh in the 1980s, it made it possible to simplify the form of interaction between all the elements of the electronic circuit, making computers more compact, faster, and more efficient.
Nowadays motherboards are indispensable, not only for the computer but also for other devices such as consoles (Play Station, Xbox…). If you are thinking of buying one you need to make sure that it guarantees good performance and is compatible with your devices, as there are various formats of different sizes on the market. In the course of this short article, we will try to delve deeply into the world of electronics, to provide you with a clear picture of motherboards and how they work.
The most important things in a nutshell
- The motherboard is an essential element for any personal computer; it incorporates the connections with the various components of the device, from the microprocessor to the graphics card, passing through the RAM ( Random Access Memory ), the monitor, and the keyboard.
- Before choosing the motherboard, check that it is compatible with the processor you intend to install: make sure it is the right model regardless of the brand.
- Knowing a minimum of the characteristics of the motherboard can be very useful to orientate between the various alternatives. You should at least know what only the chipset, the CPU socket ( Central Processing Unit ), the RAM slot, the connection ports … If you have never heard of them, do not despair: we will deepen these concepts in the section dedicated to them.
The best motherboards on the market: our selection
Below we present a list containing the description of the most popular motherboards on the market. We have selected only products from the best brands, considering the good value for money and the positive reviews of the buyers. Take a look:
The best for value for money
AMD AM4 ATX motherboard with Aura Sync RGB connector. Equipped with Fan Xpert 4 Core, which allows you to effectively control the fans and the AIO pump, as well as to detect the temperature of the GPU. Ultra-fast connectivity allows for maximum flexibility with native USB 3.1 Gen 2 and M.2, and the 5X Protection III system ensures multiple hardware protection.
The most appreciated by the reviews
Intel Z370 Express motherboard supports 8th Gen Intel Core processors but not compatible with 6th and 7th Gen Intel Core. network and to keep ping times low to provide better responsiveness in crowded LAN environments. Also equipped with support for XDR DDR4 up to 4000MHz.
The best motherboard for gamers
MPG Z390 Gaming Plus motherboard, equipped with ultra-fast M.2 connectivity and overclock function. The optimal sound quality, as well as that of the video, makes it ideal for online gaming. It offers maximum compatibility with the widest range of components and devices, the BIOS contains all the appropriate options and is easy to use. Additionally, the board is designed to fully utilize Intel CoreTM 9th Generation processors.
The most avant-garde
Intel Z390 ATX motherboard, LGA 1151 Socket for 9th / 8th Generation Intel Core desktop processors. The Aura Sync RGB synchronizes LED lighting, plus a wide range of compatible PC components are available, including addressable RGB strips. Equipped with full cooling function through the built-in M.2 heatsink, it can accommodate Dual Type M and USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C connectors.
Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about the motherboard
If you are thinking of buying a motherboard you have to take into consideration some factors; there are several models designed for different user profiles, the choice is wide and the risk of getting confused is high if you know little about the world of electronics. In the next few lines, we will try to answer the most frequent questions and doubts on the subject.
What exactly is a motherboard?
The motherboard is a main electronic board capable of incorporating all the circuits and connections between the various components of the personal computer or console. Continuously transmits high-frequency signals between RAM, processor, expansion cards, and peripherals. In short, we can say that it constitutes the real “spine” of the PC.
What are the main components of a motherboard?
The most relevant elements that make up the motherboards are, in the list: the ATX power connector, the CPU socket, the RAM slots, the PCI and PCI Express expansion slots, the auxiliary connectors, the CMOS battery, the USB ports, the BIOS (Basic Input / Output System), and the chipset. Here is a brief description of the individual elements:
- ATX Power Connector: Provides the power needed for the motherboard to function.
- CPU socket: this is the processor connection socket. The processor can be Intel or AMD.
- RAM Slots: “Traditional” computers usually host between two and eight slots. In laptops, RAM slots are the only components that include expansion options.
- PCI y PCI Express expansion slots: used to aggregate new components to the computer, such as graphics cards and sound cards. PCI slots are now considered obsolete, it is difficult to find them still in circulation.
- Auxiliary connectors: they are different, and allow you to connect hard drives, SSDs, DVD players, and other external components.
- PS / 2 connectors: used to connect the keyboard and mouse to the computer.
- Graphic connectors: used to connect monitors. the various types are DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, VGA.
- USB ports: allow you to connect various external devices to the device such as a mouse, external hard drive, printers …
- Network ports: these are the external ports where Ethernet cables are connected to surf the net.
- BIOS ( Basic Input / Output System ): this is a memory located in the software, capable of both controlling the hardware and acting as an interface between the operating system and the computer hardware.
- Chipset: composed of a set of small circuits, responsible for coordinating the flow of information between the different key components of the device.
- CMOS ( Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor ) Battery: This is a lithium battery that supplies the BIOS with the energy it needs to function.
What motherboard formats are there?
There are currently dozens of different motherboard formats on the market, each designed for a specific category of personal computers. According to the measurements, there are three most common ones: from the largest, the ATX, to the smallest ones, the mini ITX, passing through the micro ATX which make up the intermediate format. To explain the differences clearly, we decided to prepare the comparison table that you find below.
Obviously, the larger the motherboard size, the more connectors it can integrate and the larger the available expansion space. You need to make your choice based on your specific needs, making sure the card you choose is compatible with your device.
Can it be useful to have a motherboard for overclocking?
Chances are you’ve heard of overclocking before, and maybe you’d like to know more. In general, it is a technique, achievable in the processor, RAM or graphics card, to increase the speed of the device by accelerating the work of its components.
Not only does it speed up the computer, but its performance is also improved. Keep in mind that the processors, both Intel and AMD, are already equipped with a technology capable of increasing their frequency automatically; in any case make sure that the device allows you to overclock, and before doing it check that the processor and motherboard are unlocked.
Before evaluating the different offers on the market you have to consider some important aspects that can influence the final decision. What we have selected and described below are the factors and characteristics that determine which motherboard is best for you, so pay attention to the concepts we have explored.
- Circuit quality
- Graphics card
The first thing that catches the eye is the format of the motherboards. Think well if in the future it will be necessary to carry out expansions on your device, and if so, focus on ATX or micro ATX formats, with the necessary flexibility to provide sufficient options for expanding space.
ATX motherboards are compatible with virtually any personal computer, while the micro ATX format is ideal for more compact devices with reduced storage capacity. If, on the other hand, you have a computer with a liquid refrigeration system, equipped with several graphics cards and three or more expansion slots, you should opt for the XL-ATX and E-ATX formats.
The type of processor that can be installed depends on this element. Careful: you must choose a motherboard with a socket compatible with the processor you intend to install. The most frequently found are Intel’s LGA 1151 and LGA 2066, and AMD’s AM4 and TR4, but they’re certainly not the only ones.
For server processors and more specifically high-end ones, Intel uses the LGA 2011 and LGA 2011-3 sockets, while for domestic use it uses the LGA 1151. AMD, for its part, uses the FM2 socket. and FM2 + for processors with integrated graphics, and AM4, AM3, AM3 + for most of the processors used for home use.
The quality of the motherboard manufacturing process affects its operation and the correct performance of the various connected components. Depending on how much and how you use your computer you will need a high or medium-performance motherboard.
If you use the computer a lot, perhaps for work, or you often use the overclock function, you must necessarily focus on a motherboard equipped with high-quality circuits and power supply phases, as the card itself will need high electrical requirements. Know that quality increases along with price, so consider what you need to avoid spending a fortune.
The chipset is nothing more than the communication center of the motherboard and is responsible for controlling data traffic. It also determines which components are (or are not) compatible with the card: you can distinguish those that are compatible with Intel processors and those that are compatible with AMD processors. In the next list, we have listed some of the best around.
- Intel B360: Low-end chipset with no overclocking capability and no RAID support, but with SSDs. Ideal for budget computers.
- Intel H370: does not allow overclocking, but has support for RAID and SSD drives. It is used on small to medium-sized motherboards and is ideal for compact computers and consoles.
- Intel Z390: high-end model, provides the overclocking function. It is recommended to mount K range processors and a RAM of 4,500 MHz or lower.
- Intel X299 constitutes Intel’s highest-end chipset. Perfect for high-workload computers and workstations.
- AMD A320: belongs to AMD’s low-end chipsets. It does not allow overclocking or even hosting graphics cards. Designed for cheaper and less performing computers.
- AMD B450: Allows overclocking and provides several graphics cards. This is an interesting option for mid-range computers and consoles.
- AMD X470: an excellent model for high-end consoles. It supports overclocking and various graphics cards.
- AMD X399: This is AMD’s highest-end chipset, specially developed for those who need a lot of power and subject their devices to heavy workloads.
First, make sure that the motherboard you want to buy is compatible with the video (or graphics) card you plan to connect to. If you think it would be useful to install two or three to improve the performance of the PC or to improve the functioning of the console, check carefully that the motherboard provides the possibility to apply for more than one graphics card.
The seller always reports this information. Also consider that SLI ( Scalable Link Interface ) is the Multi GPU system for Nvidia graphics cards, while Crossfire is the system that corresponds to ATI / AMDA graphics cards. In addition to checking the possibility of inserting external cards, check-in what quantities they can be added.
Since the motherboard is the “control center” of the computer, it is essential that it is equipped with all the necessary connections to function properly: firstly, it checks the number and type of SATA connectors it has and also evaluates the functions that the internal chipset allows you to play.
Then consider the number of USB ports, audio and video connectors, connectivity (Wi-fi and Bluetooth), and PCI Express slots. As mentioned above, try to avoid PCI slots: they have now fallen into disuse, and everyone snubs them preferring PCI Express.