How to Choose the Best Motherboard – Motherboard Buyer’s Guide

Published 09/05/24

Choosing a motherboard is one of the trickier parts of building a PC. If you don’t already know you way around a motherboard, product names like “Gigabyte B650M S2H DDR5 mATX” might as well be complete gibberish. And shopping for a motherboard isn’t like shopping for, say, a graphics card. At least with a graphics cards, you can look at performance benchmarks to see how much faster one GPU is over another. With a motherboard, it’s not so immediately apparent. Really, when it comes down to it, an expensive motherboard won’t necessarily make your computer run any faster – that’s the job of the CPU and GPU. So, what does an expensive motherboard offer over a cheap motherboard, and how do you decide which one is best for you? Let us explain in this motherboard buyer’s guide.


the cpu socket of a motherboard

Before you choose a motherboard, first you need to know what brand and model of processor you’ll be running. Naturally, an Intel processor won’t be compatible with an AMD motherboard and vice versa. But, more crucially, not all processors will fit in all motherboards, even if they’re from the same brand.

It’s the motherboard’s socket – where you physically install the processor – which determines whether a processor is compatible or not. This is because on the bottom of the CPU and in the CPU socket, there are hundreds of contacts which fit together like a puzzle. For instance, an AM5-based processor like the AMD Ryzen 7600 will slot in nicely in a motherboard with an AM5 socket.

Which socket your processor is designed for should be one of, if not the first thing in its spec-sheet, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. 

Socket Compatibility and Support

AMD is pretty good about maintaining their platforms and sockets. Socket AM4 was introduced back in 2017 with the launch of 1st-gen Ryzen and was used all the way up to 2020’s Ryzen 5000 Series. That’s five generations’ worth of support from a single socket, meaning you could theoretically upgrade from 1st-gen to 5th-gen Ryzen without needing to change motherboard – impressive. Now, with Ryzen 7000 Series, AMD is on socket AM5. AMD have gone on record saying they plan to support AM5 until at least 2025.

Intel, on the other hand, tend to release a new socket with every other CPU generation. Socket LGA 1151 supports 8th and 9th-gen Intel CPUs, socket LGA 1200 supports 10th and 11th-gen Intel CPUs, and so on. Consequently, you’ll have to pay more attention to the socket type when shopping for an Intel motherboard.


Next up is the chipset. You can think of the chipset as the central hub of a motherboard, enabling communication between all its connected components and peripherals. How does this affect your choice of motherboard? Broadly speaking, it’s the chipset which determines the feature set of a motherboard: the number of supported PCIe lanes, whether you can overclock the processor, and more.

It can all get a bit technical when looking at the chipset. But really, you just want a chipset that matches the capabilities of your processor. Want to use your unlocked K-series Intel processor to its fullest potential? Pair it with a high-end, overclocking-enabled chipset. Likewise, a low-end chipset will be perfectly fine in a system intended for office work and home use. You can find which chipsets your processor is compatible with over on the manufacturer’s website. 

Both Intel and AMD offer three tiers of chipset: Intel ‘B’ and AMD ‘A’ chipsets are entry-level, Intel ‘H’ and AMD ‘B’ chipsets are mid-range, and Intel ‘Z’ and AMD ‘X’ chipsets are high-end. Let’s explore the key differences between these chipsets.

Intel B and AMD A Chipsets: Entry-Level Motherboards for Office PCs

motherboard without heatsinks on vrms

If all you intend to use your computer for is day-to-day tasks, then an entry-level motherboard with an Intel B/AMD A chipset will more than suffice. Crucially, motherboards with these chipsets do not support overclocking, and generally their design is very stripped back to save on cost.

For instance, take a look at the above photo of an Intel B760 motherboard. To us, the most obvious cost-cutting measure is the lack of heatsinks on the voltage regulator modules – the clusters of transistors and capacitors surrounding the CPU socket.

VRMs ensure that power is delivered to the CPU in a steady, controlled manner. Without heatsinks, VRMs are liable to overheat, in turn limiting the power available to the CPU. This would be a big no-no with an overclockable, watt-guzzling processor. You’d be leaving performance on the table otherwise.

That said, an entry-level board will more than likely be paired with an equally entry-level processor – one that’ll hardly put any strain on the VRMs. So, as long as the board is used with a power-sipping chip, the lack of heatsinks won’t be a pressing issue. It’s definitely something you want to keep an eye on when shopping for mid-range and high-end boards, however.

Intel H and AMD B Chipsets: Mid-Range Motherboards for Gaming PCs

Next up the stack are motherboards with Intel H/AMD B chipsets. This is where you start to find motherboards that are built to withstand gaming-grade CPUs. Really, for the majority of people out there looking to build a gaming PC, this tier of motherboard is all you need.

Not all motherboards with these chipsets will come equipped with heatsinks on the VRMs, but it’s certainly more common than those with Intel B/AMD A chipsets. This will allow the VRMs to feed the CPU with a steady stream of watts, letting it hit and, more importantly, sustain higher, faster frequencies.

While AMD B chipsets do support overclocking, Intel H chipsets do not. You’ll need to step up to an Intel K chipset if you want overclocking on an Intel platform.

Intel ‘Z’ and AMD ‘X’ Chipsets: High-End Motherboards for Enthusiasts and Overclockers

Last but not least are motherboards with Intel Z/AMD X chipsets. If you’re going all-in on a ludicrously-fast CPU, like an Intel Core i9 or AMD Ryzen 9, it only makes sense to pair it with a top-spec motherboard. This will help ensure that every last drop of performance is squeezed out of the processor.

Again, these are the only Intel motherboards that support overclocking. So if you’re buying an unlocked, overclockable Intel processor (denoted by a ‘K’ in the product name), a Z-series chipset is a must-have. Otherwise, you’d be splashing out on an expensive CPU for practically no reason.


motherboard form factor comparison, ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

ATX vs Micro-ATX vs Mini-ITX

Now that the more technical stuff it out of the way, it’s time to look at the motherboard’s form-factor. This should be pretty self-explanatory – you want a motherboard that’ll fit in your computer case, otherwise you’re in trouble.

Fortunately, the size and shape of a motherboard is all very standardised. When shopping for a motherboard, you won’t have to meticulously check its dimensions against your case’s. There’s three main form-factors of motherboards: ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. These correspond with the form-factors of cases as well (full/mid-tower ATX cases, Micro-ATX cases, and Mini-ITX cases).

ATX – The Most Popular Motherboard Form-Factor

ATX is the largest motherboard form-factor, coming in at 12” x 9.6”. The main advantage of a larger motherboard is that there’s simply more room for slots and ports.

If you’re a data hoarder, the additional SATA ports and M.2 slots of an ATX motherboard will allow you to hook up many more HDDs and SSDs. Or let’s say you’re looking to build a powerful workstation for deep learning, machine learning, and AI. An ATX motherboard will feature more PCIe slots compared to Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, letting you cram in as many GPUs as possible.

What’s more, ATX is by far the most popular form-factor of motherboard – just take a look at how many ATX motherboards we stock at Ebuyer compared to the others. Go ATX and you’ll have a much broader range to choose from.

Micro-ATX – More Compact, Less Expandability, and Potentially Cheaper

Micro-ATX (9.6” x 9.6”) is a more compact, squared-off version of ATX. As a result, Micro-ATX motherboards usually feature less expansion slots for GPUs and other add-in cards compared to their full-sized counterparts.

This shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the average user. After all, most gaming PCs nowadays feature a single, ultra-high-performance GPU, as opposed to multiple GPUs working in conjunction. Furthermore, most office PCs don’t have dedicated GPUs in the first place, instead relying on the CPU’s integrated graphics. So, in many instances these expansion slots just go to waste. It’s only if you’re explicitly putting together a multi-GPU system that a Micro-ATX motherboard’s lack of expandability may be limiting.

Given their similarities, ATX and Micro-ATX motherboards share many of the same mounting points. This means that you can install a smaller Micro-ATX motherboard in a larger ATX case. Doing so many look a little goofy, but Micro-ATX motherboards are often cheaper than ATX boards. It’s a good way to save some money when building a PC. You could then reinvest the savings into a better CPU or GPU, which would have a more meaningful impact on performance. It’s certainly something to think about.

Mini-ITX – Made For Small Form-Factor Builds

Mini-ITX (6.7” x 6.7”) is even smaller still. Sure, Micro-ATX is smaller than ATX, but it’s nowhere near as compact as Mini-ITX.

For those looking to build a properly small form-factor system, this is the kind of motherboard to do it with. A Mini-ITX motherboard, paired with a Mini-ITX case, is a fantastic choice for a home theatre PC that’ll tuck away nicely in a TV cabinet. Alternatively, a Mini-ITX-based PC is a great way to claw back some space in a cramped office.

Just keep in mind that these compact boards have very little in the way of expandability. More often than not, you’re looking at just two DIMM slots for the RAM and one PCIe slot for the graphics card. This doesn’t give you the option to, for example, throw in an extra stick or two of RAM down the road to increase memory capacity. You can’t grow into a Mini-ITX motherboard like you can with an ATX-style motherboard, but its compactness is unmatched.

What Else to Consider When Buying a Motherboard

Once you’ve narrowed down your options by socket, chipset, and form-factor, it’ll become much easier to pick out the right motherboard. For those wanting to whittle things down even further, here’s a couple extra considerations to take into account.

Wi-Fi (or Lack Thereof)

We’re all accustomed to having Wi-Fi built into our electronics nowadays. You wouldn’t buy an off-the-shelf laptop or desktop without Wi-Fi; it’s to be expected.

So, it’s worth pointing out that Wi-Fi is actually not a standard feature on all motherboards. Wi-Fi is considered to be more of a premium feature on mid-range and high-end motherboards. Budget-oriented motherboards often omit Wi-Fi, with good old wired ethernet being the only way to connect to the internet.

This can easily trip people up if they aren’t aware, especially a first-time PC builder. It’d suck to boot up the shiny-new PC you’ve just finished building, only to realise there’s no built-in Wi-Fi.

Before buying a motherboard, double-check whether it has Wi-Fi or not. If you’ve got your eyes on a motherboard but it doesn’t have Wi-Fi, you can always add Wi-Fi to a computer after the fact with either a wireless add-in card or wireless USB receiver.

Rear I/O for Peripherals and Accessories

Your computer case only has so many USB ports. Most of your peripherals and accessories – keyboards, mice, and so on – will be hooked up to the motherboard’s rear I/O (input/output) panel. When shopping for a motherboard, look to see if a model has enough ports for your needs. Think about whether you’ll need additional USB-Cs or if plenty of USB-As is enough, for example.

Shop Motherboards at Ebuyer

By now, you should have a good idea of what to look for in a motherboard. The brand and model of your CPU should directly inform your choice of CPU socket. Once that’s decided, you can move onto the motherboard’s chipset, which determines its feature set. And, of course, a motherboard’s form-factor should be compatible with your computer case. Head on over to ebuyer and use the filters on the left of the page to select the socket, chipset, and form-factor you need – you’ll find the best motherboard for you in no time.

Most Popular

To Top