The motherboard isn't exactly the sexiest part of a PC. Typically, it's the processors and the graphic cards with their GHz ratings and pixel-pumping power that get our attention.
Yet, if you're building a PC, you mustn't bypass the motherboard. It's the foundation on which your entire system will rest; the part that decides what your PC will be capable of. And if you're building a gaming PC, surely you want it to be capable of a whole lot. You want it to be able to run the newest Assassin's Creed, COD, The Witcher 3 or Metal Gear Solid V on ultra settings.
To help you out, dear PC builder, we've streamlined your motherboard buying process with the questions below.
1) What processor are you looking to buy?
Our first question is the most crucial. Each motherboard works with only one line of processors, classified into "sockets." AMD has their AM3 and FM1 processors while Intel has their LGA2011, and LGA1155 sockets. Your AM3 processor won't work with a motherboard with an LGA2011 socket.
If you want to future-proof your system and want to be able to run the games smoothly coming out three years from now, you might want to invest in a motherboard with an LGA 1151 socket. The Intel socket is configured for the newest "Skylake" processors first released in August 2015.
MSI recently released their "Z170" line of LGA 1151-compatible motherboards in the same month, whose prices range from P6,950 to P12,950.
2) Would you like to save on space or is versatility your priority?
Motherboards commonly come in two sizes: ATX and microATX. The former is your standard 12 x 9.6-incher while the latter is smaller at 9.6 x 9.6 inches. If you don't want your PC to occupy such a large space on your desk, opt for the microATX.
But if you're into gaming, you're really better off just choosing the ATX one. It has more expansion slots for extra devices, more RAM bays, and more data connectors. ATX motherboards are fitted into large casings too, making them easier to cool than the cases for microATX boards, which could get cramped.
3) How much RAM can you cram in it?
On a performance-per-peso basis, the RAM is the cheapest upgrade you can give your PC. For a thousand pesos or two, you can give your PC a quick, noticeable performance boost. That's why you'd want a motherboard that allows you to put in as much RAM as you want in it—ranging from 8GB max to a whopping 128GB. There are different kinds of RAM, with the latest being DDR4.
4) Do we really need that built-in graphics card?
For casual users, the built-in graphics card should suffice.
For gaming though? You'll find yourself buying a dedicated graphics card. That built-in one is hardly going to matter. There are cases where the two can work together, but even then, the gains are minimal.
Instead, focus on looking for one that has multiple PCI-Express slots (the slot in which your graphics card goes in) working at fast speeds. With multiple slots, you can plug in multiple graphics card that can work in tandem via Nvidia's SLI and AMD's Crossfire set-up...and ensure that Snake gets to look as badass as he can:
5) Does it have support for SSD drives?
SSD drives are so much faster than traditional hard drives. Simply put, if you're into gaming, don't buy a motherboard if it doesn't have support for SSD drives. The storage drive has traditionally been the bottleneck for PC performance. SSD drives, while imperfect, addresses that issue capably.
6) Finally, does it have gamer-oriented features?
All the things we mentioned above—the RAM it can handle, the socket, the storage drive compatibility—these things can be found across all models of motherboards.
Yet, if you're truly into gaming, you might be better off springing off for a motherboard that's built for the gamer. Certain brands such as ASUS, GIGABYTE, and ASROCK have a line dedicated to gamers.
What has recently caught our eye though is MSI's Z170 Gaming Motherboards.
We were invited to the launch of their newest line of gaming motherboards last August 19, 2015 at Greenhills. There, they touted their mobo's set of features including:
- the ability to boost your RAM's speed with DDR4 Boost technology
- an audio-enhancing technology called Audio Boost 3 for better sounds when gaming
-MSI LAN Protect technology, which instructs the system to prioritize games above other applications
when playing online or on a network
-a game boost dial which allows you to easily overclock your system for added performance
-reinforced connectors and a "Military Class V" build for better heat dissipation and durability
Simply put, it boasts an impressive array of made-for-the-gamer features that gamers should take into consideration. While some of these features might resurface in other manufacturers' models, our point here is just to show you that gamer-oriented motherboards have a few tricks in store for the gamer.
In other words, if you're going to pay games on your PC, you might as well start with a motherboard that's designed for it.