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Motherboard Considerations

Introduction

When assembling a desktop computer, two of the most important considerations are the processor and motherboard—also sometimes referred to as a mobo. Once you have decided on a processor, you can narrow down your choices to compatible motherboards. Below, NeweggBusiness lists out several considerations to help you narrow down your choices even more.

Key Considerations

Form Factor

With a processor selected, you should decide how large you want the computer to be. The size of the case will determine how large your motherboard can be. Some of the more common form factors include the following.

  • ATX – The standard form factor often found in many mid and full-tower desktop computers, it measures 12 × 9.6 inches.
  • Extended ATX (E-ATX) – E-ATX motherboards are usually 12 × 13 inches, but it is not a definite requirement. Generally though, E-ATX motherboards are larger than ATX variants. Full-tower cases are typically required for E-ATX motherboards.
  • Micro ATX (mATX) – mATX motherboards can range from 9.6 × 9.6 inches to 6.75 × 6.75 inches, and are excellent for use in small-form-factor cases. Compared to ATX-sized motherboards, they have fewer expansion slots and internal connectors.
  • Mini ITX – A mini ITX motherboard measures 6.7 × 6.7 inches and is a popular form factor for smaller computers. Due space restrictions, mini ITX motherboards only have one expansion card slot.
  • Ultra ATX – Ultra ATX is 14.4 × 9.6 inches and is a relatively new form factor designed to accommodate multiple graphics cards. Visually, it is slightly taller than a standard ATX motherboard.
Expansion Slots

The number of expansion slots on a motherboard is directly linked to its form factor, but the configuration of those expansion slots can vary. Though most standard ATX motherboards have seven expansion slots, the type of slots they are can vary from model to model. For instance, one motherboard can have five PCI and two PCIe® slots while another may have six PCI and only one PCIe slot.

Internal Data Connectors

Also of importance is the number and type of internal data connectors available on a motherboard. They are used to connect optical driveshard drivessolid state drives, and other storage drives to the motherboard. Typically, larger motherboards have more internal data connectors because larger cases can support more drives.

As for the type of connectors, most desktop motherboards utilize SATA connectors, though some may also have IDE connectors for legacy support.

Onboard Video

Many desktop motherboards—though not all—have built-in video chipsets, so they do not strictly require dedicated desktop video cards. However, few onboard video chipsets are capable of outputting to multiple monitors or run graphics-intensive programs. For general office tasks such as word processing, checking e-mail, or browsing the internet, onboard video is more than sufficient.

Wireless Networking (Wi-Fi™)

Some motherboards feature wireless networking, making dedicatedwireless network adapters unnecessary. However, motherboards that have built-in Wi-Fi are typically more expensive. If you do not utilize wireless networking, you can save costs by select a motherboard without built-in Wi-Fi.