Motherboards are the glue that binds other hardware in a PC. An entire reliance under the surface contributes to performance in hardware configurations from the PSU to all directly connected components. From minor performance hiccups to systems not being able to boot, the motherboard is at the center of it all.
This article goes over all the intricacies of performance when looking at the operation of a motherboard.
What is a Motherboard?
A Motherboard is a PC component that connects all other components via pathways or “traces” in a PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Depending on system needs, the motherboard can direct and control components' interactions through these connections. Variations in parts cause certain motherboards to perform over others due to build quality, chipset features, and variations in hardware.
Does A Good Motherboard Matter in Gaming?
No, motherboards do not affect the default performances of hardware inside the computer. Their role is comparable to standardized glue between the interactions between other components like The CPU, RAM, and GPU. However, features like overclocking support remain in higher-tier chipset boards.
Motherboards are essential in their design as manufacturers keep developing and supporting the hardware for years. Features like heatsinks, extended BIOS support, and next-generation PCIe support contribute to a game's performance with installed hardware. Common motherboard manufacturers like MSI, ASUS, GIGABYTE, and EVGA account for the newest advances in hardware and design and update dated motherboards for future and current components on the market.
While companies like AMD have shifted their focus to better tools for CPU and GPU overclocks, motherboards are instrumental in providing stability for the system when attempting to overclock your CPU and GPU.
A few factors contribute to how particular motherboards react to overclocking based on specs and hardware capabilities:
- Reviews on performance - Frequently, motherboards are reviewed for their overclocking abilities by major computer media outlets like Gamers Nexus, JaysTwoCents, Linus Tech Tips, etc. They can accumulate renown for their capacity or inability to hold certain overclocks on various components. Information is often on popular forums like Toms Hardware and the massive PC enthusiasts following, where data is shared and deliberated.
Heat dissipation and stability - Depending on the chipset, some motherboards are more equipped to handle heat dissipation and power delivery than others. Motherboards use MOSFETs (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) to control the voltage to compensate for the CPU power draw, generating heat. This heat can interfere if not efficiently cooled by case fans. Higher-end boards don't usually have this problem as they come equipped with heatsinks over most MOSFETS.
For most boards, manufacturers support a board's BIOS for at least two to four years after the hardware's initial release. Depending on the motherboard quality and chipset, some motherboards last longer. A motherboard's revision history and reliability contribute to its expected lifespan and performance capability. Manufacturers would push fixes and optimizations into a new revision of the motherboard as displayed in the corner of the motherboard. Each revision has its own BIOS version hosted on the manufacturer's website. Below is what a revision number looks like:
Image credit: tonymacx86
Board Model/Revision and Functions
While revision numbers and board designations indicate a type of BIOS, what kind of fixes and optimizations warrant a board becoming a new revision? Usually, components such as power filtering, traces, and other smaller support systems are often expanded or compressed depending on the components used. Motherboard manufacturers can opt for a major or minor change, jumping from 1.0 to 1.1 or 1.0 to 2.0. Here is an example of some main components that can change on a motherboard from 1.0 (left) to 2.0 (right).
Image source: Hardwareinnfo.com
Can A Bad Motherboard Affect Performance?
Many intricacies go into if a motherboard is the cause of significant performance issues. Besides no BIOS support or less than proper maintenance, the motherboard could be to blame.
While stuttering can contribute to many components, a common culprit is often motherboard-caused stuttering and crashing when running specific applications. A BIOS update can fix these issues in most cases, as every new BIOS brings more stability and support to the system. If that doesn't fix the issue or the motherboard is no longer supported, it may be time to upgrade.
Improper Power Delivery to the CPU/GPU
A motherboard is instrumental in delivering power to the CPU, GPU, and other components. The CPU receives all of its power from the motherboard while the GPU draws 75W from the PCIe slot separate from the dedicated GPU power cable. If any error were to occur in this delivery of power, there would be massive system instability or refusal to boot.
How to Find a Good Motherboard for Gaming
Going back to the first section on overclocking, finding the correct gaming motherboard for you depends on your needs as a consumer. Depending on the brand, some cross-generational motherboards may be the perfect money-saving alternatives, given their comprehensive support.
CPU generations vs. Motherboards generations
Looking away from the Intel versions of motherboards and CPUs, AMD has supported multiple generations of CPUs on different versions of motherboards. This is especially great as AMD has announced Motherboards back to the 300 series can support up to the latest 5000 series of CPUs. Users will be able to upgrade systems built in 2017 to support hardware in 2021/2022, which significantly increases the system's lifespan. For more info, feel free to review this article on how often you should upgrade your PC.
RAM capability and speeds
While mid-tier/high-tier motherboards have significant support for multiple RAM speeds, lower-end boards often don’t support them. Due to this, if you would like to upgrade the RAM in a system, make sure to check the motherboard manual for the supported speeds and configurations.
PCIe Configurations and expandability:
Depending on the motherboard chipset, PCIe slots range from 2 to 4 available PCIe 16x lanes, PCIe 8x lanes, and finally PCIe 4x lanes. The lanes support different types of hardware that work within the PC, such as port expansion cards, capture cards, and sound cards, to name a few. Depending on your needs, you may need all slots on the motherboard for given equipment.
Closing Thoughts About How Motherboards Affect Performance
While motherboards can have a disproportionate effect on a system's performance later down the line, it is essential to get familiar with the abilities and support a motherboard provides to keep performance at an all-time high. Things like the build quality and chipset and revision contribute to what a motherboard is capable of, which is the determining performance factor for components.
The best way to verify if a motherboard is right for you is to review its performance and the kind of CPU and GPU combo you will be getting. I cannot recommend these outlets enough for different technical explanations for beginners and advanced enthusiasts:
At Apex, we have a multitude of top-rated and reliable motherboards. From lower chipsets to 690 version motherboards that support an impressive number of features including our PCs sporting Intel’s 12th generation of CPUs. Whatever your motherboard needs, we hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written by Will Wilson