The motherboard is your PC’s backbone, giving power to everything within it. It allows for the most basic functionality required for your PC, its components, and peripherals to run so you can use it.
A decent PC requires a good motherboard (with a decent chipset) that will adequately power its components and will properly manage the communication between them. A cheap motherboard is prone to failure, limiting your PC’s potential and even lacking essential features necessary to optimally run your PC.
In general, a high-end motherboard, by itself, will not significantly impact gaming performance compared to a mid-range or budget motherboard. The primary factors influencing gaming performance are the CPU, GPU, and RAM. However, high-end motherboards can indirectly affect gaming performance and provide certain advantages:
- Stability and Reliability: High-end motherboards often have better power delivery and cooling solutions. This can result in increased stability and reliability, especially when overclocking the CPU or GPU.
- Overclocking Features: Some high-end motherboards come with advanced overclocking features like enhanced BIOS options, better voltage regulation, and additional cooling headers.
- Multi-GPU Support: If you plan on using multiple graphics cards for gaming, high-end motherboards often provide more PCIe slots and better support for multi-GPU configurations.
- Build Quality and Features: High-end motherboards often come with better build quality, premium components, and additional features like high-quality audio, enhanced networking solutions, and more.
- Future-Proofing: High-end motherboards may offer more features and better support for future technologies, ensuring your system remains relevant for a more extended period.
In summary, a high-end motherboard can enhance aspects of your gaming experience, such as system stability, overclocking potential, and overall build quality.
However, if your budget is limited, it’s often more cost-effective to allocate more of your budget to the CPU and GPU, as these components have a more direct impact on gaming performance. A well-balanced system that includes a mid-range motherboard, a powerful CPU, and a high-performance GPU is usually the best approach for gaming.
Keep in mind that many motherboards are expensive because they come with a z chipset that will allow you to overclock your CPU (Intel) but most people will never overclock their CPU. This is my story also, I both an expensive motherboard that allows me to overclock my I7-6700K CPU but I never needed to overclock it.
I still run modern triple-A games at High to Ultra High settings even if my CPU is more than 6 years old, so think twice when you spend your money on a motherboard that is designed for overclocking.
Does the Motherboard Matter in a PC?
The motherboard is very important but don’t think that you need the most expensive one, usually, if you pick a mid-range motherboard that comes with the necessary utilities (nr. of USB ports, USB 3.0 ports, a good network, and sound card integrated, etc.) you will be fine.
Invest the majority of your budget in a top-of-the-line graphics card and a good CPU, if you invest a big part of your PC build budget in a top motherboard you won’t have too many benefits.
But remember, the motherboard is a crucial component in a PC, and it plays a significant role in the overall functionality and performance of the system. Here are some reasons why the motherboard matters in a PC:
- Hardware Compatibility: The motherboard determines what types of CPU, RAM, and expansion cards (such as graphics cards, sound cards, and network cards) can be used in the system. It also influences the number and types of ports and connectors available for peripherals and storage devices. Choosing a compatible motherboard is essential to ensure all your hardware components work together seamlessly.
- Performance: Different motherboards support various features and technologies that can affect the overall performance of your PC. For example, high-end motherboards may support faster RAM, multiple graphics cards for gaming or rendering, and overclocking features for boosting CPU and memory performance. The quality of the motherboard’s power delivery and cooling solutions can also impact system stability and performance.
- Expandability: The motherboard determines the number and types of expansion slots, such as PCIe slots for graphics cards and NVMe SSDs, as well as the number of USB ports, SATA connectors, and M.2 slots for storage. A well-chosen motherboard can provide room for future upgrades and expansion.
- Form Factor: Motherboards come in various form factors, such as ATX, microATX, and mini-ITX. The form factor affects the physical size of the motherboard and, consequently, the size of the PC case you can use. Your choice of form factor can also impact the available space for components and the overall aesthetics of the system.
- Connectivity: Motherboards offer different connectivity options, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, audio outputs, and network interfaces. The type and quality of these features can vary between motherboard models and impact the usability of your PC.
- BIOS/UEFI: The motherboard’s BIOS or UEFI firmware controls essential settings and configurations of the system, including boot options, power management, and overclocking. Having a user-friendly and feature-rich BIOS/UEFI can make it easier to manage your PC.
- Reliability and Build Quality: A high-quality motherboard with good components and build quality is less likely to fail or cause issues in the long run. It can also contribute to system stability and durability.
Essential Functionality to Look Out for in Motherboards
There are a few essential functionalities you must ensure you have when purchasing a motherboard, even if you are on a budget. A good, decently priced motherboard must strike the correct balance between price and functionality and support all these features below:
Basic Adequate Connectivity Functionality
Ensure that your motherboard has adequate connectivity to connect your hardware components and peripherals to your PC. Ensure it has sufficient fan connectors, SATA ports, ethernet ports, Wi-Fi functionality, and USB ports. SATA ports connect such things as an SSD and optical drives such as a DVD ROM. An Ethernet port allows you to use a LAN cable to connect to the internet. Wi-Fi functionality so that you can connect to the Wi-Fi without an adapter.
Number of USB Ports
The number of USB ports on your motherboard is necessary to connect the many peripherals required to use your PC. Such peripherals include your mice and keyboard to use your PC. More advanced peripherals such as a graphics tablet and modern headphones also require a USB port. Not to mention, a flash drive and external storage also need another USB port. Ensure you have enough USB ports to connect all your necessary peripherals.
A CPU socket that works with your CPU is also necessary for your motherboard to be able to communicate with your CPU and power it. CPU architectures frequently change as hardware advance, and so does CPU sockets. Intel CPUs use the LGA format, while AMD CPUs generally use PGA. Ensure that your motherboard has the correct CPU socket for the CPU you intend to buy.
Ensure that your motherboard’s CPU socket can be used to upgrade to another generation of CPU in the future, so you do not have to purchase a new motherboard when upgrading it.
PCIe x16 Slots
You must also ensure that you have a PCIe x16 slot to connect your motherboard to your GPU. Without it, your GPU will not connect to your motherboard and, in turn, your PC. Ensure that it has more than one PCIe x16 slot should you buy a sizeable powerful GPU, as they often require more than one of these slots.
Check that your motherboard has an adequate amount of RAM slots and not only one or two of these slots. Many cheap motherboards only come with one or two slots, which will limit you later if you plan to upgrade your RAM to make your PC faster, as you will generally use two RAM slots when starting up and more later. As technology develops, you will need more and faster RAM to run; therefore, enough RAM slots are necessary to future-proof your PC.
Finally, your motherboard must also have a good voltage regulator module or VRM. The VRM ensures that your power supply functions correctly and adequately power your motherboard and the rest of your PC. Cheap motherboards do not come with good VRM, limiting your PC and its functionality.
What Are The Benefits Of a Good Motherboard?
Investing in a good motherboard has many benefits for your PC now, I elaborate on why you should strongly consider investing in a great and capable motherboard:
- Invest in a good motherboard with the latest CPU sockets to fit in the latest processors on the market.
- Use the latest storage and data transfer technology.
- USB technology has advanced to USB 3.0 technology which is much faster than UBS 2.0 and comes built into the newest and latest motherboards. USB 3.0 is about 5 Gbit compared to 480 Mbps, making it about ten times faster than USB 2.0.
- Built into the latest great motherboards is SATA III technology which makes your storage device, such as your SSD’s usage, and transfer speed much faster than the older SATA II technology. SATA III can transfer and use a maximum speed of 6Gbps, making your storage devices connected to it incredibly swift.
- Good motherboards support the newest and fastest RAM technology. To access the latest and fastest RAM, you need the correct RAM slots compatible with it. The newest RAM technology is DDR5 RAM which only the latest and most decent motherboards support.
- A good motherboard will allow you to upgrade your PC hardware in the future. By buying a good, well-priced motherboard, you will later be able to put in more storage devices, a better GPU, and even possibly a new CPU.
What Is the Most Significant Disadvantage of Having a Low-Budget Motherboard?
A cheap motherboard has many disadvantages due to the manufacturer cutting costs, such as few SATA ports and RAM slots, but the most significant drawback is its low VRM (voltage regulator module).
The VRM of a cheap motherboard will limit the capability of your hardware components and most likely damage them in the future. A motherboard with low VRM will limit your CPU and potentially render it worthless.
Instead, get a good motherboard with greater functionality than one lacking basic functionality and, most importantly, have a low VRM. VRM affects the power that goes to your components, and if you do not have a good one, your component’s use will be limited and may not even function.
A good motherboard is a significant component of your PC. The motherboard, at its essence, drives your PC and its hardware components. It ensures that they communicate with one another so that your PC is functional.
If you cheap out on your motherboard, it will limit the basic functionality of your PC and you may not get your money’s worth from some more expensive components like the CPU and the GPU.
As a distinguished Professor of Computer Science, my expertise lies at the intersection of PC hardware, software development, and system troubleshooting. My foray into the realm of computer technology began during my high school years, where I honed my skills in building and repairing PCs. Subsequently, I provided consultancy services to a renowned PC repair establishment, solidifying my reputation in the field. Today, I am the trusted authority among peers and colleagues for insights and solutions related to PC and laptop challenges.