How to Choose a Motherboard

By Samuel Wilson

Now that we have the processor picked out, (if you don’t, please review the previous article, which should have helped you select a processor (CPU) for your build type. If you’re having some trouble narrowing down the exact processor (CPU) you want, just narrow down the socket, and come back to it once you figure out how much money you have left in your budget after you pick out the rest of your components.

Once you choose the processor (CPU) socket, you will be able to move on and choose your motherboard. If you need to review content from the previous article, you can visit:

The processor is seated on your motherboard, and you can think of the motherboard as the body. The motherboard is what connects all of the various components that make up the computer. You must select a motherboard that is compatible with your processor (CPU) and Socket (e.g. AM3+ from AMD or LGA 1150 from Intel). Another thing to consider is the type of chipset the motherboard is utilizing.
The chipset manages the transmission of data between the processor (CPU), memory, various components, and your storage.  Some examples of various chipsets are H170, Z170, X79, X99 on Intel motherboards and A78, A88X,890GX, 990FX on AMD motherboards. Chipset selection isn’t as important if you’re doing a budget build (some lower end mid-range build fall into this category as well) because you’re probably not going to need the additional offerings of the newer and higher end chipsets such as Z170 and X99. If you need additional information regarding chipsets visit and/or do a quick web search and you will find your answer in no time.

When you select your motherboard, you need to consider how much memory you’re going to need. You should make sure your motherboard has enough slots for your memory modules (RAM) and that it supports the capacity your going to be using as well. You can purchase memory modules in various capacities such as 2,4,6,8,16,32GB and can be purchased on their own or in pairs or packs.

The amount of RAM you will need, will be based upon your workload. For a budget build 4GB of memory should be sufficient; this will require one or two memory module sticks depending on the capacity you choose. If you need to review the various build types (Budget Build, Mid-Range, High-End) from a previous article visit:

For a mid-range build, I would recommend 8GB to 16GB of RAM (this will require one to four memory module sticks). For those going the high-end build route, I would recommend 16GB – 64GB of RAM (this will require four to eight memory module sticks). You’re the only one that can determine your memory needs since it’s based upon your usage.

Motherboards are available in many form-factors, but the one you’re most likely to encounter are ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. The standard motherboard size is ATX and it’s a full-size motherboard, while Micro-ATX and ITX are smaller (form factor) motherboards.

When you choose the form-factor of your motherboard make sure it has the options you need such (USB, Firewire, HDMI, PCIe slots, memory slots, etc.) or the size of the case (tower) you would like to use.

Your Motherboard should have the required video outputs for your monitor (i.e. Single or Multiple HDMI, Display Port, and/or DVI outputs), if they don’t you will need to purchase a discreet graphics card.  You also need to make sure your motherboard has enough PCIe (PCI-Express) slots for any add-on cards you made need. These include items such as: modems for faxes, serial inputs, sound cards, and PCI cards for older printers.

Other add-on cards such as mid-range and high-end graphics cards require a special PCI-Express interface on the motherboard, PCIe 3.0 (PCI-Express 3.0), so you need to make sure  their are enough slots.
Remember, if you’re going to be gaming, doing video/multimedia editing, or even running a lot of applications at once, you’re probably going to want to choose a motherboard with at least four memory module slots instead of two.

There are plenty of motherboards and manufacturers to choose from, so don’t be overwhelmed. Here are some great motherboard options for Intel Socket LGA 1151, from the manufacturer MSI (

Budget build – MSI Gaming H170 Gaming M3- (H170 Chipset) or MSI Gaming H170 Gaming M3 (Z170 Chipset), Mid-Range build – MSI Z170A Gaming Pro (Z170 Chipset), and High-End build – MSI Gaming Z170A Gaming M9 ACK (Z170 Chipset).

Options for AMD motherboards include:
Budget – MSI 760GMA-P34(FX) *Socket AM3+ (760G + SB710 Chipset),
Mid-Range – MSI A88XI AC V2*Socket FM2+ (A88X Chipset), and
High-End – MSI 990FXA-GD65V2 *Socket AM3+ (990FX + SB950 Chipset).

At the end of the day, selecting a motherboard shouldn’t be a difficult process. Once you select a processor (CPU) (or at least a CPU socket), you can then choose a form factor and a chipset based upon your individual needs. Things to keep in mind, if you choose a small form factor motherboard, such as Micro-ATX or Mini ITX, expect to deal with limited workroom in smaller towers, when you are assembling the computer. For a first time builder, this might be a little overwhelming and frustrating, so choose wisely.

Small form factor motherboards  don’t always offer the same features or chipsets that are found on full sized motherboards. Along with that, small form factor motherboards can sometimes limit your upgrade path in the future, due to their size. Stay tuned as I discuss how to choose the correct Memory Modules (RAM) for your build type.
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