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Selecting an Intel Based Motherboard
Motherboards are one of the most essential components of any PC build. The motherboard you choose for your computer will determine all of the other components that are compatible with your PC. Everything from your CPU to storage drives and RAM connects to your motherboard. This importance of motherboards is why they are considered the best starting point for almost any computer build.
Intel CPUs are compatible only with Intel based motherboards. If you ever need help or want to get estimates for your own build, you can use Micro Center's Custom PC Builder tool for this purpose. With that said, if you have decided that an Intel processor is the best choice for you, be sure to take a look at the important features like chipsets and sockets that we discuss below.
Chipsets and Sockets on Intel Motherboards
Chipsets and sockets help to distinguish between motherboards. Intel processors require specific sockets to be compatible with Intel motherboards, and chipsets can help inform you which components will work with each other. Z490 based motherboards are the next step up in terms of cost and features for Intel motherboards. These boards can support 10th and 11th gen Intel processors and higher RAM speeds of 2933MHz. The newest 11th gen CPUs are best paired with motherboards based on 500 series chipsets. Gaming motherboards or other high end tasks may utilize the newest Intel 12th Gen Processor and Z690 boards, which features 10 USB 3.2 ports and the fastest RAM speeds possible.
Sockets are another key element of motherboards that any PC builder needs to understand. Currently, Intel motherboards are available with two main types of sockets: LGA 1200 and LGA 1700. (A few high performance motherboards also use the LGA 2066 socket. While these sockets do have performance differences between them that are worth investigating if you are serious about maximizing PC specs, the functional difference comes down to the pin connector layout, which determines which types of CPU each socket can support. Thus, when choosing a CPU for your build, be sure to note which socket size it’s compatible with.
There is no doubt that sockets and chipsets can be complex and confusing, especially if you are a first time PC builder. That is why many gamers and builders choose to use a CPU and motherboard combo from Micro Center. With these pre selected packages, you will never have to worry about connectivity issues between your CPU and motherboard, and you will be able to move on to other parts of your build.
Intel Motherboard Form Factors
Besides chipsets and sockets, the next most crucial motherboard specification is the form factor. The size or form factor of a motherboard tells you which type of PC case your build will fit into and how many additional components you can install. ATX motherboards are the most common and largest size available. The larger size of ATX motherboards makes them much easier to work with and some of the most popular motherboards for gaming. Recently, extended ATX (eATX) motherboards have also gained popularity. These jumbo sized motherboards are larger than standard ATX motherboards and often feature additional PCIe slots that make it easy to add graphics cards, WiFi cards, and other performance components.
Smaller motherboard form factors, such as microATX or Mini ITX, are great for office based machines or computers that need to fit specific space requirements. Building with Mini ITX compared to ATX motherboards can be more challenging due to their reduced size, but the tradeoffs can be worth it if, for example, you are a college student who wants to build a dorm friendly compact gaming PC.
Micro Center offers a full selection of Intel motherboards from leading manufacturers, like ASUS, MSI, and more. Compare specs here and choose the one that offers the performance and functionality you are seeking for your build. Don’t forget our CPU motherboard combo packages if you are looking for a solution that will allow you to get started on your build quickly and without the potential headaches of pairing chipsets and sockets. If you are considering AMD CPUs for your build, check out our AMD motherboard selection as well.