Even for the uninitiated, the motherboard of a PC seems to be the most important part of the whole, and you’re not far from that. After all, in your case it is the largest component in terms of space, and almost everything is assembled, connected and installed here.
But it is precisely because of the extensive design and connectivity that many computer innovators feel intimidated by the options available with motherboards.
At first glance, the motherboard installation process seems like something only a technician can do. But it’s not, and anyone can find out.
With knowledge, it becomes easier to choose the motherboard that someone really needs. The installation can even be done by yourself, simply by following the correct instructions and a few tips from this basic overview.
Asus ROG Strix B450-F ATX AM4 Game Motherboard (near Amazon)
Motherboard Important technical data: What do you need to know if you choose amotherboard?
Features and options are mainly what motherboard specifications usually offer. Manufacturers like to focus on the performance of the motherboard, but it is useful to understand the basic functions of a motherboard to understand that these functions are actually implemented in applications. The most important one:
1. Form Factor
The form factor refers to the size standard of the motherboard. As mentioned in our last report, most desktop implementations are generally divided into ATX, Micro-ATX and ITX. They go along with the slot you need to insert the motherboard. Small form factors are designed for larger enclosures, so an ITX motherboard is almost always suitable for larger ATX PC enclosures. Don’t forget, when looking at a case you like, to mark the size and choose a motherboard with the correct form factor and vice versa. If you have a motherboard that you would like to have, look for a PC case that includes the form factor.
Size of the main print
2. Processor connection
This is the type of connector that will be available on the motherboard for the processor it is designed for. There are different types of sockets for different processor manufacturers (AMD and Intel), but they also differ depending on the generation and architecture of the chipset and processor. For the current generation, it is sufficient to know that AMD processors are suitable for AM4, while Intel processors are suitable for LGA1151 (8/9th generation, 2nd generation) and LGA1200 (10th generation).
AMD AM4 PGA connection
Intel LGA 1200 connection
PGA vs LGA
It should also be noted that, with the exception of Threadripper processors, AMD has contacts on the processors known directly as PGA – Pin Grid Array, while Intel has contacts on the motherboard connector known as LGA – Land Grid Array. This means that the PGA connectors contain pins, while the LGA connectors are a series of pins that match the processor pins. The AMD Threadripper mentioned above uses a TR4 port with an LGA connector twice the size of a standard Ryzen processor with a PGA connector.
LGA vs. PGA connector
This is an alphanumeric identifier of the motherboard’s integrated main circuit (IC), which determines the data flow between all components of the card and those connected and/or installed to it. You don’t have to worry about how each chipset works. All they need to know is the basic functions of the different chipsets and processors they can support. Below is a list of available chipsets for current generation AMD and Intel motherboards:
|Basic type||Opening balance||Average range||Upper end||Server/lover|
|AM4 [AMD]||A320, A520.||B350, B450, B550||X370, X470, X570||–|
|LGA1151 rev2 (Intel)||H310||B360, B365,||Z370, Z390||(same)|
|LGA1200 (Intel)||H410||B460, H470, Q470||Z490||W480|
GIGABYTE X399 EX designation AMD Ryzen TR4 ATX thread breaker on Amazonian territory
4. Storage compatibility
This is the type of memory modules and the base clock speed supported by the motherboard. This includes the maximum amount of RAM that can be installed on the motherboard. You can check the specific values in the user manual and on the official product page. Other RAM specifications for motherboard compatibility are usually included here:
- Maximum number of DIMM slots (2 or 4 slots)
- Two-channel memory support (universal on all motherboards)
- Support for ECC and non-ECC unbuffered RAM (where ECC is reserved for server motherboards)
- Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
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5. Extension slots
Expansion slots determine the type and number of PCI Express slots available on the motherboard. They are usually located at the bottom of the panel, grouped and aligned with the rear access holes at the system input of the speaker. Enthusiasts often worry about this too, as it makes it possible to perform updates and add maps in the future.
If necessary, mix compatible PCI Express slots with the devices you want to install. The PCI-E x16 slot is normally reserved for the GPU, and the PCI-E x4 slot for M.2 SATA/NVMe drives can be placed here.
INFORMATION : Devices with the lower PCI-E contact can be installed in the PCI-E slots with the upper contact. For example, a PCI-E x1 Wi-Fi adapter can be installed in any PCI-E slot (x1 to x16).
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6. Multiple graphics functions
SLI and CrossFire technologies allow multiple PCI-E slots to be used for specific settings on multiple GPUs. You don’t have to have a standard PC these days, but you should at least know they exist. If you need to use one of these cards, you must equip it with two PCI-E slots.
7. Rear panel connections
Also known as the input/output port on the motherboard. These typically include USB ports, video outputs for embedded graphics, an RJ-45 port, audio ports and legacy PS/2 ports. The I/O display is normally intended to fill the gaps between connectors when a motherboard is installed in a PC case. Some top-level motherboards may even have full covers for the I/O port area to hermetically seal the back of the connectors.
Asus Prime Z390-A LGA1151 Intel 8. 9. ATX generation motherboard
8. Connections and internal headers
This is usually what scares most PC novices, because the motherboard has different connectors for different PC components, scattered all over the place. Normally it’s about:
- The power connections are normally a 24-pin main power connector and an 8 (4+4) pin processor connector. For more information on this subject, see our previous article on power supplies.
- Fan strips – one for a CPU fan, and the rest for the other fans you want to install in the PC cabinet. They are available in standard 4-pole configurations.
- SATA data connectors – these connect to the data connector port of your SATA devices, which is usually located at the bottom left. Not to be confused with SATA power connections or power connections providing power to SATA devices.
- Front panel header – connects all available keys and LEDs on the front of your PC case It is often necessary to consult the user manual for the correct pin layout, but on some motherboards the layout manual can be written directly to the card.
- USB headers – Connect to the USB ports on the front of the PC case. USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 headers are completely different and cannot be confused.
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Motherboard with integrated graphics processor (iGPU) Option
For those who build a PC with a limited budget and cannot afford discrete and expensive graphics cards, the idea of simply using the integrated GPU on a motherboard can be an interesting option. It’s like splitting a two-phase PC and switching to a special graphics card if you can afford it. However, there are several considerations, advantages, disadvantages and other elements that need to be taken into account when using embedded graphics on the motherboard:
- First of all, the processor must of course support embedded graphics. On Intel all processors with ending in in F embedded graphics, while on AMD all processors with ending in in G have an iGPU.
- The chipset of the motherboard must support embedded graphics. The easiest way to confirm this is to check if a certain motherboard has (its own) video options/functions on the product page.
- Embedded GPUs do not have specific memory, but use system memory or computer RAM (on memory modules) as VRAM, so you may need more RAM on your computer. It’s called shared memory.
- The two-channel configuration of the memory module is an absolute necessity when using the iGPU.
- Using the iGPU provides (not too much, but still a lot) of extra load, not only on the CPU, but also on the motherboard, which needs to provide more power to keep the CPU and GPU functions running. (More information about MRV below)
- Note the video input/output terminals on the back of the mainboard, as this is where the iGPU sends the video signal to the monitor. All discrete GPUs installed on the motherboard are normally disabled, so the iGPU is automatically used at boot time when a monitor is connected.
- Even if you’re using something as high quality as the Ryzen 5 3400G for iGPU games, you won’t expect stunning graphics, although you can still play at the default frame rate, depending on the settings.
Hidden motherboard Specification: Voltage control modules
While it is true that options and features are a big part of what motherboards can offer for your PC, there is a very important specification for them that is often not directly mentioned by the manufacturers: Driving the processor. The Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) is a combination of electronic components (choke + capacitor) on the motherboard, which is used to power and control each component on the motherboard.
MSI game performance AMD X470 Ryzen 2. 3. AM4 Generation on Amazon
Meaning of AmvD
They are especially important for CPUs where power quality can affect their performance. This is even more important when overclocking the processor, because power consumption increases dramatically (and thus heats up) as the processor approaches its performance limits.
A VRM power supply is generally determined by its phases; it is the number of cycles a given electric current can undergo to deliver exactly the power required at a given time. There is no direct way to determine how many phases a motherboard can deliver.
However, a rough estimate can usually be made by counting the number of chokes or cubic black components around the processor connector. For example, if you see three grouped chokes plus two located in another area next to the CPU connection, we can estimate that the motherboard has 3+2 VRM phases.
MSI MPG Z390 Edge Gaming AC LGA1151 (8th and 9th generation Intel) with Amazon RGB backlighting
Balancing the VRM and your processor(installed)
In general, the higher the VRM phase, the higher the CPU load on your motherboard. However, it should be noted that concentrating on DRM by increasing the processor load leads to a significant temperature increase and may exceed the thermal operating limit.
Processors that run on clock frequency do not need too many phases. As long as the CPU is not too powerful for the motherboard, they should work as expected, without thermal asphyxiation.
For example, the mid-range Ryzen 5 3600 can operate at a standard clock speed on an A320 motherboard compared to the entry-level class. But using a high-tech Ryzen 7 3900 will certainly overload the VRM on the same motherboard, even at the bearing clock frequency.
Otherwise, the Core i3-9100F processor at entry level is fully absorbed by the 8 or 10 phases of the typical Z390 high-performance motherboard.
In summary, to get the most out of your CPU, you should consider the following options on the dashboard:
- The balance of the CPU level you use for the relative level of the motherboard.
- A good cooling of the motherboard is always essential (either by the CPU cooler or by the fans of the PC case).
- This may require motherboards with heat sinks around the VRM, depending on your power expectations.
MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Plus ATX LGA1200 10th generation Intel Core Gaming motherboard
To choose a motherboard, you need to select the available functions and options on your PC. As mentioned before, it is also very important to know the MVR classification of a certain motherboard. The better the power supply, the higher the level of processor it can maintain, ensuring the overall performance of your PC.
Nevertheless, the budget will inevitably take these specific considerations into account. If you don’t really have a particular use for this feature, or if you can go back multiple times on your CPU selection, you may be able to save on a cheaper motherboard without losing what your PC really needs.
MSI Z390-A PRO LGA1151 motherboard (Intel 8th and 9th generation)
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