While there are many premade gaming computers out there, players nowadays like to customize their own gaming setups. From graphics cards to computer monitors, there are many components to consider when building the best homemade rigs. However, the most important of these is the motherboard — the main printed circuit board (PCB), which serves as the backbone through which all these components can interact.
For those asking, what is a PCB? It's an electronic circuit that’s found in various gadgets like laptops and smartphones. Simply put, the motherboard is a more complex kind of PCB — one that enables your gaming PC to run smoothly.
So, how do you know which motherboard is right for you? Here are a few things you need to note:
Roughly speaking, the motherboard’s form factor determines its size, shape, and how many hardware components you can fit onto it. For gaming PCs, there are three common form factors to choose from: the Mini-ITX, at 6.7 x 6.7 inches; the Micro-ATX at 9.6 x 9.6 inches; and the standard ATX, at 12 x 9.6 inches. Generally, the bigger the form factor, the more expansion slots there are for other inserts like GPUs.
As such, those looking to build a high-end gaming setup that can deliver smooth frame rates will want to purchase an ATX motherboard. It is better suited for overclocking and can be fitted with multiple graphics cards and additional RAM. Meanwhile, a Micro-ATX form factor is better if you're on a tight budget, as it can carry all the necessary hardware to run most games (albeit at a lower quality).
The CPU socket connects a processor to the motherboard via a series of pins. Therefore, the type of motherboard you buy will depend on what kind of processor you want it to support. After all, even if you have the most powerful CPU, it’s useless if you can’t slot it into your motherboard. For example, 10th generation Intel Core CPUs require an L1200 socket. On the other hand, the process is slightly simpler for AMD (for now) since the company currently uses one AM4 socket for all its mainstream processors.
While most of the latest processors are capable of running games at a decent quality and reasonable speeds, AMD's Zen 3-powered Ryzen 5000 processors are currently some of the fastest gaming processors available today. Thus, hardcore gamers should consider a motherboard that can accommodate these CPUs.
RAM is another major consideration when selecting a motherboard for gaming, as it frequently determines the responsiveness and overall smoothness of, especially heavy games. Most PCs are equipped with the standard 8GB of RAM, though hardcore gamers may want to upgrade to 16GB just to be on the safe side. With that said, the RAM modules you plan to install must be compatible with the motherboard you choose.
This means the motherboard must support the RAM type — the latest being DDR4. Furthermore, you should also take note of RAM capacity, especially if you're planning on upgrading later on. Luckily, most decent modern motherboards can easily carry an extra 128GB of RAM, though 32GB is ample enough for many current games.
Building your own gaming setup entails plenty of research, and the sheer variety of hardware available is enough to discourage most gamers from doing so. However, the reward is well worth it when you've finally pieced together the best-personalized gaming computer to fit your needs.