Why Is Choosing A Motherboard So Confusing? - PC SEEKERS

Why Is Choosing A Motherboard So Confusing?

 Image credits: AMD

So with all the pandemic stuff going on around the world, have recently tried to get or build yourself a PC and put together a parts list for it? If yes, then you must know how difficult and confusing it is to know and remember which motherboard is compatible with your CPU and which motherboard offers what features.

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If you are building your own PC, selecting a motherboard might seem pretty straight forward: You just pick something with a compatible socket that has the right aesthetic and you're ready to go, right?. No. Not so fast.

Even if you get a motherboard with the same CPU socket, it does not mean that it will support you CPU. As is in the case of AMD Ryzen CPUs from the first generation, they are not supported on the latest X570, B550 and A520 boards even if the motherboard has an AM4 socket on it which is compatible with all Ryzen CPUs (excluding the Ryzen Threadripers). In the same way X370, B350 and A320 boards do not support CPUs beyond 2nd gen Ryzen CPUs even if they come equipped with the same AM4 socket.

 Image credits: AMD

In the same way not just the socket, but the chipsets matter too. Even motherboards with the same CPU socket can be equipped with different chipsets that effect what features will be available to you. The good news is that typically motherboard manufacturers will indicate the chipset right in the model name of the motherboard so that you will know exactly what you are getting but the bad news is that unless you already know what they stand for, the confusing mix of letters and numbers do not convey much information. So lets decode a few chipsets and their names, starting with AMD.

Team red assigns a letter to their chipsets like A, B, X and TRX usually along with a 3 digit number. The left most letter will tell you which general tier the chipset is in. Starting at the bottom, A chipsets are the entry level consumer grade chipsets from AMD which do not support overclocking while B chipsets are considered midrange which do support overclocking bridging the feature gap like I/O and PCIe lanes support between the A and the X chipsets. If you want something on the higher end you can get an X or TRX chipset based boards. Both support overclocking. So if you buy any 8 or more core processor you would want to choose a X series motherboard. TRX and X399 chipsets are found on AMD's upper tier HEDT (High End Desktop) platform that support CPUs with more memory channels, more PCIe lanes and extra processing cores. So that takes care of the letters. Now let's talk about the numbers.

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The first digit tells us which generation of chipset we are dealing with and whether it will be compatible at all with your processor. For Ryzen CPUs the first gen Ryzen launched with 300 series of chipsets namely A320, B350 and X370. Then beyond that 2nd gen Ryzen launched with B450 and X470 chipsets and 3rd gen Ryzen now has A520, B550 and X570 chipsets that support 3rd gen Ryzen out of the box. So higher numbers typically mean better features like improved PCIe connectivity (X570 support PCIe Gen 4 lanes where as the chipsets prior to this do not), more USB ports, more memory slots etc.

But if you are more of a team blue person and you want to get an Intel CPU? Well, like AMD, they combine both a letter and a number. Team blue assigns letters such as H, B, Q, Z or X along with a 3 digit number. H and B and entry level to midrange chipsets which you can comfortably use to build entry level to mid range PCs. The Q chipset is a step up to B chipsets and provide extra enterprise features such as remote management. If you want something that can feature full support for overclocking you will probably be more interested in Z and X chipsets. So if you bought an unlock processor you will want to choose a Z chipset based motherboard. X series chipset based motherboards are founds on Intel's HEDT platform. The numbers on Intel's side represent the same things as on AMD's side.

So, I hope this guide helped you in understanding what goes where and if you are still confused then there is no shame in getting a laptop and being done with it.


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Do let us know about the difficulties you faced when you were looking to build a new PC in the comments section below.

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