mATX motherboards are ideal for gamers looking to build powerful PCs in a small chassis, featuring four RAM slots, two quality-of-life expansion ports (such as AURA lighting connectors) and plenty of rear I/O connectivity.
The CPU socket allows your central processor to communicate with other essential components installed in expansion slots and contains the chipset, which provides most motherboard functionality.
What is a Motherboard?
The motherboard serves as the central hub of any PC, connecting all other components – from power supplies and RAM slots, CPU sockets and sockets, RAM slots and RAM expansion slots – together. As technologies and devices advance, motherboards have changed with them – providing physical support like backbone, acting as control center like nervous system and moving electricity and data through like a circulatory system – or to use another analogy from Voltron, acting like the black lion that brings all these pieces together under its wings as one unit.
A motherboard is a massive printed circuit board that serves as the backbone for your computer, holding together various modules such as CPU and RAM while offering expansion slots to add new connections and features. Furthermore, it coordinates how all these parts interact.
Your desktop motherboard includes an easy-to-spot CPU socket with its oval-shaped opening and large pin connections, serving as the primary interface between its components and your central processing unit, which executes instructions from programs to perform tasks on the desktop computer.
Others connections commonly found on most motherboards include USB, which enables users to easily connect peripherals such as mice, keyboards, headphones and cameras and transfer data at high speeds (up to 20GBit/s with Type-C connector). Some boards even feature Thunderbolt 3 ports which combine high speed data transfer with power delivery of up to 40GBit/s.
For those wishing to gain more insight into how their motherboard operates, we advise finding a safe, clean and stable environment in which to open their computer case and examine its board. Prior to opening it up, be sure to switch off and unplug power cord; additionally have someone trustworthy nearby if any damage should occur; watch videos below showing how it was manufactured on factory floors for guidance if dissecting motherboards becomes an obsession!
Types of Motherboards
Motherboards serve as the heart of any computer, connecting everything from its CPU, memory, hard drives and optical drives to video cards, sound cards and expansion slots – as well as peripheral devices such as USB ports and Ethernet ports. While motherboards have evolved with changing consumer demands over time, they remain the backbone of a computing experience.
Motherboards vary depending on how many connections, ports and headers they feature. Size options can include standard ATX, mini-ATX, micro-ATX and LPX boards with various chipset options that affect performance as well as their capacity to complete certain tasks.
Selecting the proper motherboard can have a dramatic impact on a computer’s performance. It determines how much storage can be held by a machine, how fast games run and how efficiently data processing occurs. Furthermore, it controls its own power supply to distribute electricity across components in your machine.
When shopping for a motherboard, select one that will support the type of processor you intend to use in your build. Depending on your budget and preference, an inexpensive board that supports entry-level CPUs might suffice, while more powerful processors might require premium boards with more memory capacity.
Many motherboards now include integrated graphics, eliminating the need for separate graphics cards and cutting costs. Furthermore, these motherboards may support faster data transfer technologies such as PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 slots or SATA 6Gbps allowing more storage capacity as well as higher quality audio options.
Noteworthy features to look for when purchasing a motherboard include its ability to deliver up to 10GBit/s of data through USB 3.0 ports, and support for “daisy chaining” multiple compatible monitors via DisplayPort connectivity. Likewise, many motherboards support wireless networking technologies such as gigabit Ethernet or dual gigabit Ethernet networking technologies.
Keep the future upgradeability of a motherboard in mind when purchasing one. An upgradable motherboard allows a computer to grow as its requirements do, providing extra expansion slots for future components or add-ons that may come its way.
Connectivity on a Motherboard
Motherboards serve as an integrative hub between all of a computer’s major components, managing information flow between each piece. For instance, it receives input from users before communicating it to the CPU; connecting memory devices like hard drives; providing graphics processing support and networking needs management; as well as being expandable through daughter circuit boards installed into expansion slots on desktop PCs.
All motherboards contain rear ports that enable users to attach external peripherals. These could include VGA, DVI or HDMI connectors for attaching monitors as well as VGA 2.0 or 3.0 USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports used for peripherals like keyboards, mice and flash drives. In addition to traditional USB connections there may also be high-speed data transfer connections like eSATA and Thunderbolt that offer faster data transfers – these connections may be especially beneficial to gamers or people working with large amounts of data who require quicker transfer speeds than traditional USB connections can offer.
Motherboards contain sockets for CPU, GPU and RAM upgrades; these sockets serve as the primary way for users to upgrade their processor, memory or video card. A CPU socket, often made of brass and copper and having seven data transmission pins and fifteen power transmission pins, allows CPU physical connection.
Additionally to the CPU socket, most motherboards contain other sockets for RAM, GPU and hard drive connections. RAM modules – sticks of volatile memory that store information quickly for quick retrieval – can be upgraded with additional sticks to help the CPU handle multiple programs without slowing down. Hard drive connectors on the back of a motherboard accept standard SATA drives – providing the fastest method of data transmission as they use only two wires instead of four for data transmission.
Modern motherboards usually include built-in Wi-Fi capabilities to make it easier for computer users to connect to the internet, while older models may not include this capability and require users to purchase an individual adapter separately for connecting their machines to WiFi or Bluetooth networks.
Sockets on a Motherboard
A socket is a physical connector used to link a CPU (central processing unit) and motherboard. You’ll likely come across this type of socket on many types of motherboards; most desktop computers utilize one type. They come in various sizes and shapes but most modern sockets feature pins arranged in rows and columns for optimal functionality; they may even be color coded according to manufacturer/type of CPU they hold.
Sockets have long been used in computing to facilitate easy CPU swapping out and replacement without requiring soldering the new CPU onto the motherboard or unbolting an old one first.
PGA and LGA sockets are two of the most frequently used sockets. Both varieties apply a compressive force when a handle or surface plate is placed into them, providing improved mechanical retention while eliminating risks such as pin bendage during insertion. Furthermore, the PGA socket holds distinction as one of the oldest sockets used with early Intel microprocessors.
Another popular socket type, found primarily in laptops or other small devices, is the BGA socket, featuring ball-shaped pins arranged in a grid pattern. With its small form factor making it perfect for compact devices and its pin configuration allowing more connections per square inch than many other socket types, BGA sockets are becoming increasingly prevalent.
BGA sockets come with various configurations of rows and columns, making selecting an appropriate processor easy. Older BGA sockets often support multiple processor generations while more modern versions tend to only support one.
When identifying which socket type is required for a processor, it’s essential to keep in mind that only chips designed specifically for that socket will fit. AMD and Intel both offer their own specific socket architectures so only chips designed specifically for them will work in them. A free program called Speccy can help identify what kind of socket your motherboard features.