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How To Choose A Motherboard For Gaming

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If you’re looking to build your own PC or to buy a pre-built PC that you might want to expand or upgrade later, then there’s one component that will serve as its foundation.

That component is the computer motherboard, and it’s an incredibly important piece of the PC puzzle. It determines many of the other components that you’ll be able to choose, and at the same time some other choices — such as the processor that you’ll use in your new PC—determine which motherboard you can use.

Here Are What You Should Consider In Choosing A Motherboard For Gaming

Platform

Perhaps the first decision to make is which CPU you want to serve as the brains of your PC, which means choosing between two companies: Intel and AMD. Both offer CPUs ranging from entry-level options good enough for web browsing, productivity, and low-end gaming all the way up to ultra-powerful beasts that can rip through video editing projects and run today’s most demanding games at high frames per second (FPS).

Intel or AMD Motherboard

Once you’ve decided which CPU is best for you, then you’ll need to pick a motherboard that uses the right socket and the right chipset. Basically, a processor socket is the mechanism through which a CPU is firmly attached to a motherboard. A chipset is the motherboard software and hardware that combines to allow all the various components to communicate.

It’s not so important to understand everything that goes into making a chipset, but it’s vital to understand that you need to select a motherboard with the right chipset—and the right socket—for the CPU that you plan to purchase. It’s also important to know that different chipsets provide support different combinations of components such as RAM, GPUs, and others.

Form Factor

ASUS Strix Motherboards come in different sizes, meaning that you have some flexibility in building your PC to fit into your environment. If you have plenty of space then you might want to use a full-size tower case, while if you’re building a home theater PC (HTPC) that’s meant to sit beneath your family room TV then you’ll likely want a much smaller case.

That’s why motherboards come in various sizes, or form factors, and these standards define not only the size of the motherboard but also how many of various components they tend to support.

There are variations in the latter, but generally speaking, the larger the motherboard’s physical size the more components it will support. Not all cases support all form factors, and so you’ll want to make sure your motherboard and case match up.

Motherboard Expansion Options

Shielded motherboard bays Motherboards can connect a variety of components in addition to the CPU, including graphics cards, sound cards, networking cards, storage devices and connections, and a host of others.

There have been many kinds of expansion ports over the years, but fortunately, things have gotten much simpler. Today, you’ll primarily be dealing with Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) ports, with some motherboards also including PCI slots for legacy devices.

GPU Support

A GPU in a motherboard, with liquid cooling. All PCs need a way to output information in a visual format that humans can utilize. In its simplest terms, that means displaying images on a monitor. The component that performs this function in a typical PC is the graphics card, or GPU, and you’ll need to make sure that your motherboard can support the kind of GPU that you need for your intended uses.

Some Intel Core CPUs come with integrated GPUs that provide the means to display output to a monitor, and AMD has its own version of the same thing called the accelerated processing unit (APU) that combines a CPU with a GPU on the same package.

These are relatively low-powered GPUs that are great for the usual productivity tasks, but only support less graphically demanding games (like e-sports titles).

If you need a more powerful GPU, either for gaming or for more demanding applications like video editing that can make use of a GPU for faster processing, then you’ll likely want a standalone GPU. In that case, you’ll want to keep in mind which kinds of GPUs you can connect to your motherboard, and even how many GPUs your motherboard can support.

Connecting Your GPUs

In choosing your motherboard, therefore, you’ll want to make sure that it provides the right kind of PCIe slots. That means checking the GPU specifications carefully and comparing them to the motherboard’s specifications. If you want to connect two or more GPUs, called “Scalable Link Interface” or SLI by NVIDIA and Crossfire by AMD, then you’ll need two available PCIe slots and a compatible motherboard.

RAM

Your CPU needs somewhere to store information while your PC is turned on and working. That’s called “random access memory,” or RAM, and today PCs are commonly equipped with at least 4GB of RAM. How much RAM you need for your own PC depends on how you plan to use it, and 8GB is typically a safe recommendation for most lighter users with 16 or more GB being a good bet for heavier users.

Storage

Intel Optane SSDsTo use your PC, you’ll need somewhere to store the operating system, applications, and data when the power is off. Today, that means choosing between a hard disk drive (HDD) with spinning platters that store data and solid-state drives (SSD) that store data in much faster flash memory. HDDs are typically less expensive for more storage space, while SSDs are more expensive but offer extra speed, and are great for holding the operating system and applications.

Connectivity

There are several different ways to connect components to a motherboard, including PCIe, DIMM slots, and storage connections. There are a host of other connection types that motherboards can support today, and once again you’ll want to consider your needs very carefully when selecting a motherboard.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve identified what kind of motherboard you’ll need to build out your specific PC, or that should serve as the foundation of that pre-built PC you’ll be picking up, you’ll want to give some thought to its manufacturer.

Some companies focus on providing motherboards aimed at gamers, with tons of space for adding GPUs and with LED light systems, while others focus on more mainstream systems.

After picking a processor, a complementary motherboard will typically be the next component you select for your build. Let’s break down your motherboard selection into a few (relatively) easy steps.

As you’re deciding on the right motherboard, you’ll want to make sure that it meets your needs both today and tomorrow. If you know that you’ll never want to upgrade your PC beyond its original configuration, then you can choose a motherboard that provides exactly what you need to get up and running. But if you think you might want to expand your PC later, then you’ll want to make sure your motherboard will support your needs as they grow.

Some of the best-known motherboard manufacturers are ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock. You can view the different options from those companies, as well as others, on Amazon.com

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