III: One space to place it all, the motherboard
Ok, so let’s go now to the most important component of the building and probably the most underestimated. Many people put the focus of their builds on the microprocessor, the RAM memory, the size of the hard disk or the quality of the graphics card but, although all of them are of course important, what holds everything in place and connects everything is the mother board. The reason why the motherboard doesn’t seem to be so important is because when you are looking to build a computer to let’s say play a certain game or use certain program, when you check the requirements you have to comply, you’ll never see any specification for the motherboard.
Key concepts in choosing your motherboard:
Focus on quality and expansion capabilities: The motherboard connects everything in the computer so, if it has a problem or limitations, the rest of the components will suffer. The difference between bad and good quality products in computing is usually revealed under demanding tasks, where you can see that you component cannot handle the job. Also, the ability of the build to be expanded in the future is important, it is fairly common to add more RAM or even a hard disk before you think about building a complete new system, if your motherboard lacks of free connectors, you just cannot plug anything more in the near future.
So, the key things you will look for in the motherboard:
- Form factor: this is the specification of how everything is placed in the motherboard and what kind of power supply you need. This has to be the same for the power supply unit and the case.
- CPU socket: This is necessary to know which microprocessors you can place. Simply put, the CPU you choose has to fit in the motherboard’s socket.
- Memory slots and socket: How many slots do you have and what type of RAM memory you can connect. It ss also important to know the maximum amount of memory that the motherboard can handle for future expansions.
- Multiple graphic cards support: Special requirement for gamers, you need to know if the motherboard can handle more than one graphic card to improve performance in games.
- SATA ports: The number of SATA ports gives you the number of drives (hard disks, optical drives…) that you can connect.
- Number and type of USBs: Similar than the previous one, almost everything is connected to the computer now to a USB and higher number of them with better speed is usually good for almost any case.
- Onboard devices: usually the ethernet expansion to connect to the internet by cable is included and an audio card is also very common. Some manufacturers also make motherboards with integrated video cards, for example.
- Other connectors and/or capabilities.
What type of motherboard you need when you are a gamer and your focus is to play computer games at the highest quality:
High quality gaming is the most demanding task for a computer so you have to go for the high-end of motherboards. If you have a game you want to play in mind you can check the requirements for the maximum quality and select a motherboard that can handle all the components listed.
In general, you’d like to go for a motherboard with multiple graphic card configuration and plenty of slots for high speed RAM memory. The amount of ports to connect drives may not be too important but you require them to be fast. In this build is important to prevent any bottleneck that reduces performance. There are several motherboards designed for gaming purposes so you can check what components they have and look why it is important or necessary for the motherboard to have it before you make your selection.
What type of motherboard you need when you are a professional and use the computer for high-demanding task as video editing, Photoshop…:
Similar than the previous case but you probably can avoid using multiple graphic cards which will save you a lot of money. Even if you want to use multiple screens, one single graphic card (a good one) can handle more than one screen (usually up to four) so you don’t need a motherboard that is able to handle more than one card. However, to increase performance you need to be able to put plenty of RAM memory and this has to be fast, so check for high number of slots. In this case you may want to look for a motherboard with plenty of connection for SATA drives because you will probably need to be able to get your files from different places (a hard drive, USB pen-drives, memory cards…) and you need to connect readers for all.
What type of motherboard you need when you use your computer to watch movies, surfing the web…:
Well, in this case you don’t require much so my recommendation is to get a fairly good motherboard without any fancy things. As said, don’t be cheap and don’t forget about possible future expansions but almost everything will suit you.