Motherboards are the backbone of all personal computer systems. The choice of a motherboard determines things such as what type of processor you can use, how much memory it can have, what peripherals can be attached and what features it can support. Because of all this, it is important to know what you need when selecting the right motherboard.
Processor (CPU) Support
A motherboard typically has on it a specific processor socket type. This socket will determine the physical packaging of the AMD or Intel processor that can be installed on it. In addition to this, the motherboards chipset will determine what specific model processors can be used with the motherboard. Becuase of this, it is often best to get an idea of what processor you intend to use with your desktop computer before you go about picking the motherboard.
As mentioned above, the chipset plays a direct role in selecting what processor can be used with a motherboard. The chipset also determines what type and speed of memory that can be installed. The motherboad features may also dictate how that memory will perform in certain configurations as well as how much total memory can be installed. Consider how much memory you will need on your computer as well as if you want to be able to add more later.
Expansions Slots and Connectors
The number and type of expansion slots and connectors is important for what will be placed in the computer. If you have peripherals that require a specific connector or slot type, such as USB 3.0, eSATA, Thunderbolt, HDMI or PCI-Express, you want to make sure that you get a motherboard that supports that type of connection. It is always possible to get an expansion card to add some connectors but this is not always true and often they perform better when integrated into the motherboard chipset.
Features are extras added to the motherboard that are not required for operation but are useful to have. They can include things such as an on-board Ethernet, audio, RAID controller or even graphics. If the board has more features than you need it is not a problem since many can be turned off in the motherboards BIOS. These features can save money by not requiring additional expansion cards.
If you plan on overclocking your processor, you want to make sure the board will support it. Look for a motherboard that has a wide range of adjustments to CPU settings. Settings to look at are cpu voltage and bus speeds. Smaller steps when adjusting the bus speeds are better. Extra cooling elements on the chipset and solid capacities can also improve stability.