If you’re a serious gamer, chances are that you want to squeeze as much performance out of your PC as possible and you won’t stop until your PC is the epitome of efficiency and performance. You know how important low latency mice, keyboards and WiFi/LAN, the fastest CPUs and GPUs, and even a good headset are while making your gaming experience and skills the best they can be.
One overlooked component while building a gaming PC is often the motherboard. People scour lists and sites looking for the best processors or graphics cards but don’t care as much when it comes to the motherboard of their computers.
Is this neglect justified, or does the motherboard matter more than what most people might think it does? This is the question that we will be exploring in this article; Does your PC’s motherboard really matter for gaming?
Also read: What’s The Best Polling Rate for Gaming?
What Even Is A Motherboard?
Before we get into anything else, let’s first learn about what a motherboard is, what it does and what it comprises.
The motherboard, as the name might suggest, can be thought of as the main component or part of a computer. It is also called the mobo, main board or circuit board of a computer. The motherboard is a large circuit board that all other important components connect to.
It is essentially the connector that allows different components of the computer to connect to each other and communicate. Without the motherboard, you wouldn’t have a computer. That is how important it is.
The motherboard more or less consists of the following things:
- Memory slots for RAM
- CPU Socket for a processor
- SATA Connectors for storage devices like SSDs or HDDs
- Input-Output ports for devices like keyboards, mice, flash drives, card readers, etc. For example: USB type A ports, USB type C ports, HDMI ports, headphone jacks, etc.
- Bus slots that GPUs and other components can be attached to
- The chipset are components in the motherboard that make up the Data Flow Management System. Chipsets are designed to work on a specific family of microprocessors. The chipset is important in deciding the performance of your machine. It does the essential job of controlling communications between the processor and other external devices.
Depending on your processor, they can either be the PCH (platform controller hub), if it’s an Intel based system, or just a chipset, which is AMD’s PCH equivalent.
- Integrated sound and/or video card
What Sizes Do Motherboards Come In?
Motherboards, or circuit boards, come in three main form factors, or sizes. The mini-ITX, the micro-ATX and the ATX. The ATX size is the most common amongst most PC gamers and users.
Fun Fact: The term form factor is used to describe the physical shape and size of a part of a computer.
The primary difference between these three motherboard sizes is, without a doubt, their size. With the ATX being the largest and the mini-ITX being the smallest of the lot. This size directly corresponds to their capabilities and use cases. Let’s take a look at the different characteristics of each size and what they mean for the user.
Size: 6.7 x 6.7 inches
- Small and compact form factor
- Has the potential to look really cool, with a minimalist aesthetic
- Ideal for someone who wants a portable gaming PC
- Usually has two RAM slots
- More expensive when compared to a micro-ATX
- Not ideal for super high performance, multi GPU setups nor overclocking.
- Usually only one PCIe lane
Size: 9.6 x 9.6 inches
- Medium to small form factor
- Doesn’t carry the same visual appeal as the other two
- Ideal for a semi-portable gaming PC
- The most inexpensive option among the other two form factors, leading to a better choice for gamers on a budget.
- While it can perform better than a Mini-ITX setup, it is still not ideal for multi GPU setups or extreme overclocking.
- Carries more RAM capacity than the Mini-ITX
Size: 12 x 9.6 inches
- Most commonly used motherboard size and the most convenient one.
- Can be bulky, isn’t portable and can only fit in larger, ATX rated cases.
- Has potential to look aesthetically pleasing
- Much higher RAM capacity than the other two.
- More expensive as well.
- More PCIe lanes when compared to the other two sizes.
- Better heat dissipation and management due to larger size.
- Ideal for high performance machines with multi GPU setups and extreme overclocking.
Also read: What Height Should a Gaming Desk Be?
How Does A Motherboard Affect Performance?
Now that we have some necessary info on motherboards and what they are, let’s get into the meat of the matter. How do motherboards affect the performance of a PC. Well in simple terms, they don’t, but the answer is more complicated than that.
You see, motherboards don’t really change or add to the specs of your PC. The three major components that do determine how your PC performs are its CPU, GPU and memory (both RAM and ROM).
That being said, it’s important to note that motherboards allow these and other components to “talk” to each other and function properly. The motherboard only affects performance when you overclock your PC.
Also read: Best gaming setups
How Do I Choose A Motherboard For Gaming?
Choosing a motherboard for gaming comes down to what you want from it.
When it comes to the size of the motherboard, if you want a small form factor PC with a minimalistic design and are willing to compromise on some slots and PCIe lanes, go for a Mini-ITX size. If you’re on a budget, then a Micro-ATX size motherboard is the option for you.
Finally, if you’re someone who wants a proper, full fledged gaming PC, you’re best with buying a decked out ATX size motherboard. For gamers who want more out of their motherboard, there’s something called an E-ATX size, (or an Extended ATX size), which at 12 x 13 inches, is even bigger than ATX.
Ports and Slots
This is something that gets better with the more money you put into it and really has no upper limit. As a safe measure, get a motherboard that has enough ports/slots for your CPU, GPU, Input/Output devices, flash drives, display, speaker outputs, etc.
All in all, it could be said that while the motherboard is an extremely important component of any PC, it does not affect your gaming performance directly.
There are three main motherboard sizes that you can choose from, including the Mini-ITX, Micro-ATX and ATX. Which one you choose depends on your budget, aesthetic preferences and whether or not you want to overclock your PC.
In conclusion, as long as the motherboard you have can support your CPU/GPU, has enough slots for memory, has an abundance of ports for all your connections, looks good and is the size you want, it’s all you really need!
For more PC tips, check out our guide to the smallest ATX cases.