How to Choose a Motherboard?
By Benjamin Wieberg - Edited by James Baker
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There are many steps in choosing a motherboard, and I will go through each step in the process. However, I believe it is important to know about the motherboard types before you can make an educated decision. In this article I shall discuss the different motherboards for Intel which includes: Socket 771, Socket 775, Socket 1156 and Socket 1366, and the motherboards for AMD which include: Socket AM2, Socket AM2+, Socket AM3 and Socket F. After discussing each motherboard I will explain how to choose the best motherboard for your application.
Socket 2011 is the latest LGA type socket produced by Intel. Geared mostly towards the enthusiast gamers and supporting the latest six core 32nm i7 processors it is definitely among the fastest chips available. Just like its predecessor Socket 1366 the 2011 socket supports both crossfire and sli. However, the socket 2011 has a lot of features 1366 didnít have. Among these are USB 3.0, SATA III, PCI-E 3.0, Quad channel memory, and a lot of other cool features. The down side to all this greatness is price. Unless your looking to spend a good amount of money Socket 2011 is not for you. With processor prices at a minimum of $600 and motherboards at a minimum of $260 this is definitely not the proper hardware for someone on a budget.
Socket 1366 is the workstation class produced by Intel. This socket uses the i7 core or the Xeon 3XXX series which, like the previous Socket 775, contains the pins on the motherboard instead of on the cpu. Almost all Socket 1366 motherboards support either SLI or Crossfire, and all Socket 1366 motherboards use triple-channel DDR3 memory.
Socket 1156 is the average consumer socket for Core i3, i5, and i7 processors. Socket 1156 will have a lot of the same features as socket 1366, however it will be more cost effective. Socket 1156 will support the lower end i7 processors as well as the i3 and i5 processors. Socket 1156 will support only DDR3 memory, but in dual-channel configuration instead of the triple-channel configuration of Socket 1366.
Socket 1155 is the new revision of the previously released 1156 socket. Supporting almost identically what the 1156 socket supports it also has some extra support for SATA III and sever other small features. The biggest change between the 2 sockets is the BIOS. Socket 1156 uses the typical BIOS while Socket 1155 uses the new UEFI bios which supports full mouse support and allows for easy customizations for how the system runs.
Socket 775 was the first LGA socket created by Intel where the cpu pins were located on the motherboard. Socket 775 is still the most popular motherboard being purchased by consumers due to its price and compatibility. Socket 775 motherboards support a range of processors from single core to quad core and support both DDR2 and DDR3 memory. Socket 775 replaced Socket 478 when it came out. You cannot use Socket 478 parts with Socket 775.
Socket 771 is cpu interface which allows for the use of dual processors. LGA 771 was the first server motherboards to carry pins on the motherboard instead of the cpu. Socket 771 is strictly meant for server applications. Socket 771 motherboards support DDR2 FBDIMMís.
Choosing a Motherboard
Socket AM3 is AMDís latest socket for consumer use. Socket AM3 mother boards have the similar basic socket as an AM2+ board; however AM3 boards only support DDR3 memory. Therefore an AM2 or AM2+ processor will not work in an AM3 board.
Socket AM2+ motherboards are probably the most commonly chosen AMD motherboards. This is because Socket AM2+ motherboards support both AM2 and AM3 processors and allow you to mix an AM3 processor with DDR2 memory whereas when you use an AM3 board it only supports DDR3.
Socket AM2 is the oldest socket i am going to discuss in this article. Socket AM2 boards can not support the AM3 processor and only support DDR2. Socket AM2 boards were replaced with the Socket AM2+ motherboards.
Socket F is the latest server socket by AMD. It uses the LGA design with the pins on the motherboard instead of on the processor. It is the first socket to be created by AMD with this technology. Socket F allows for the dual processor setup and uses DDR2 memory.
When choosing a motherboard one of the major things you need to consider is the processor which youíre going to use. Whether it is AMD or Intel and what socket youíre going to be using as explained above. The second thing you need to look at with the processors is to see if the core size (45nm or 65nm) is supported along with the front side bus, Hyper Transport, or QPI depending on which the processor has. To understand processors better please visit How to choose a CPU.
Choosing the proper memory for your motherboard is extremely important. If you choose the wrong memory the computer wonít work at all. The first thing you need to see is whether the computer supports DDR, DDR2 or DDR3. DDR2 and DDR3 are the standard for memory right now but could change soon in the future. The second thing that has to be looked at is the memory speed which can easily be found by looking for a measurement in MHz or megahertz.
Choosing the form factor for your motherboard is extremely important because in order to choose a proper case you have to determine your motherboard size. If you have already chosen a case, make sure to identify which motherboard form factors the case will support, such as EATX, ATX, Micro ATX, or ITX. Motherboard form factor is also important - the larger the motherboard, the more options that motherboard will have. For example, a Micro ATX board may only have 1 PCI-E and 2 PCI slots while an ATX board may have 2-3 PCI-E slots, 3 PCI slots, and 2 PCI-E x1 slots. EATX is a motherboard form factor that is only found in servers and workstations, and is not for use in a typical consumer desktop system.
This option is important for the individuals who are not going to install separate video cards in their system. Onboard video is not meant for gaming of any sort and is best suited to the people who browse the internet or watch videos.
This is a good option for every one due to the fact a separate network card is no longer needed. This frees up room in the machine allowing for better airflow and at the same time allows for more slots for video cards or other necessary expansion cards. When looking at motherboards onboard NIC is always a good option.
All motherboards have onboard USB. The only difference is the number of USB each board has. The only way to determine the right number for you is to decide how many USB items you will connect to your computer. Always make sure to have a few more USB then necessary to make sure you have room for adding something in the future.
SLI & Crossfire Compatibility-
This option is most important to high end gamers or 3d graphics engineers. SLI and Crossfire is the method of using multiple video cards together to increase performance and quality. Most boards you will see that carry these attributes are either Crossfire or SLI. However, there are a few boards which allow the compatibility for both SLI and Crossfire since the release of the LGA 1366 motherboards.
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Last Updated:: Sep. 21, 2009