Buying a Computer Motherboard.

What is a motherboard / mainboard ?

The motherboard or mainboard is the heart of your computer. It is the ‘brain’ where all the processing is handled for running applications, browsing the internet or sending and receiving emails.

How do I know what is the best Motherboard to buy ?

There is a plethora of motherbards available in the marketplace today, ranging in price from a few tens of pounds up to several hundred pounds for some top-end models. All motherboards will have the same set of basic features, connections for USB and SATA devices, Networking, Memory and in some cases the newer M.2 devices. Video and Sound may or may not be included. Computer Solutions will be happy to advise on what is best for your particular requirements.

Popular Makes

Motherboard manufacturers are constantly bringing out new models to support the latest range of processors and memory. Basically motherboards fall into two broad categories. These are Intel motherboards that support Intel’s range of processors and AMD which support AMD’s range of processors. The two are not interchangeable. You cannot use an Intel processor in an AMD motherboard and vice-versa. Popular makes to look out for are ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI. ASUS and MSI are particularly popular with the gaming community. For the budget conscious Asrock do some less expensive premium motherboards, with a good all-round feature set.

Motherboard Features

Almost all motherboards today should have sockets for the DDR4 memory type. This has now superceeded the DDR3 memory type popular 3 or 4 years ago. Your motherboard should also have at least two SATA hard drive sockets as these have also superceeded the older IDE hard drive sockets. Budget motherboards tend to have built in sound and video as standard.

For those motherboards that do not have a built in video socket the standard is now PCie, which looks like a jumbo PCI socket. Most manufacturers are now ONLY providing PCIe sockets, with the older PCI sockets now becoming hard to come by. Some budget, motherboards do still have a built in VGA video socket, although the trend now is towards HDMI as the de-facto standard This is the connector to which your monitor is attached.

As a minimum your motherboard should at least be capable of normal stereo sound output usually via a 3.5mm mini jack socket, as well as a microphone input and a line output socket too. Many motherboards today should be capable of 2.1, 3.1, 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound features as standard.

Higher end motherboards will usually have built in HDMI and DVI sockets for multiple monitors or multiple networking LAN ports, which can be used together. Sometimes on-board wireless adapters are also included. Expect to pay more for these features though.

Buying A Processor & Motherboard Together

This is undoubtedly one of the best options buying both the processor, motherboard and sometimes the memory as a bundle can result in a saving and you know that everything is going to work together as intended. But beware of extremely cheap deals as these are usually based on stock that the retailer is finding it difficult to sell. The shelf life of a motherboard can be very short. There are new ones coming out all the time.

Cost & budget

With all motherboards it really comes down to which features you would like and what budget you have available to spend. For most people who are browsing the Internet or working from home, the basic motherboards will suffice. However if you are a “die-hard” gamer or software developer then a more expensive motherboard, with some degree of “future-proofing” or “overclocking”, where the processor can be made to run faster than the manufacturer intended might be suitable. We are always happy to advise you in this respect.