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The ultimate guide to buying a motherboard

Key aspects you need to consider when upgrading

Whether you're building a new PC or overhauling an old one, a new motherboard is the place to start. Here's our advice for choosing the right one.

There's something very appealing about creating your own custom-made PC. You can specify it exactly the way you want ensuring you don't have to make any compromises. The most important component is certainly the motherboard but with a huge range of prices and specifications, which one should you buy?

We've put together a list of the important aspects to consider when purchasing a motherboard, from processor speeds to memory and performance, to ensure you'll get exactly what you need for a price that suits your pocket.

The big picture

In many ways, the motherboard is the heart of the modern computer system, as it affects almost every other component. Choosing a motherboard is a fairly complicated task since you have seven to nine different factors to consider, of varying importance.

Take some time to think about how you'll use your system. Someone with a power meter that requires a serial port will care a lot more about the peripheral features than the average user will, while the hard-core gamer will probably focus on the graphics processing unit (GPU), central processing unit (CPU), and chipset while ignoring peripherals and form-factor issues.

Key motherboard features

CPU

The CPU, commonly referred to as the brains of a PC, is one of the key components (if not the key component) of a modern system. You have several mainstream options for your CPU. Intel currently has the highest-performing processor lineup, with the Core 2 Duo and the Core 2 Quad (which use the LGA775 socket). As the names imply, the Core 2 Duo is a dual-core CPU, while the Core 2 Quad is a four-core processor.

AMD uses the AM2 and AM2+ socket and offers the Phenom (quad- or triple-core) and Athlon 64 (dual-core) CPUs. AMD's products are solid, but they generally provide lower performance. A lesser-known third player, Via Technologies, produces the low-power C7 processor; the C7 is a much less common option since it offers dramatically less performance than mainstream processors from Intel or AMD do.

NEXT PAGE: Further features to consider when buying a motherboard

  1. Key aspects to consider when buying a motherboard
  2. Further features to consider when buying a motherboard
  3. Graphics hardware and audio
  4. Choosing storage, networking and memory
  5. Motherboard specs explained
  6. Motherboard shopping tips

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