Understanding Motherboards

I can't seem to figure out how strong a GPU or CPU a motherboard can handle. How do I find out this information so that I know my motherboard will be future proof when I decide to do some upgrading.


I'm asking this question because I'm tired of asking people on forums every time I find a motherboard I think I like, and then change my mind, lol.



whatever you learn from the other motherboard will still apply to the next one save special features it might have.

Umm I don't think it works like that. If your motherboard has a PCI-E slot on it then any PCI-E card will work IF your PSU can handle it. All GPU and CPU will say the minimum wattage needed, then you must make sure your PSU has enough to cover that.


As far as CPU's go if you want it to be the most upgradable then get a CPU and motherboard that fits/has the latest CPU sockets.

Motherboards don't work like that...sort of.

The only thing holding people back from putting a 4960X into a Z87 ITX motherboard is the fact that the pins don't fit.  All motherboards have a CPU socket, Haswell CPUs work on boards that are of the LGA1150 socket. So lets say you have a 4670K and you want to upgrade your CPU, well the best you can probably do is get a 4770K, since nothing else better fits in your socket.

On the other hand, the PCI-E slots, where GPUs go are fairly standardized, and are pretty much all backwards compatible (PCI-E 3.0 slots can power PCI-E 2.0 cards and vice versa)

While there is pretty much no limit power-wise for how much oomph you can put onto certain motherboards, that does not mean it is not a factor.  For example, before Haswell, voltage regulators were outside of the CPU and basically a bigger VRM with better capacitors and chokes would allow you to safely give more power to the CPU.  This has largely been evened out with Intel putting a VRM onto Haswell CPUs (hence why they're so hot).  


If by "how strong a CPU [..] a motherboard can handle" you mean how fast of an overclock you can get, then that depends solely on the board manufacturer and how they have implemented their power delivery circuit (EDIT: and, of course, on the CPU itself, a few don't overclock AT ALL, a few overclock splendidly, most are somewhere inbetween). If you wish a very rough guideline for choosing a good overclocking motherboard, look for the heat pipes near the CPU socket, that's where the MOSFETs are. Those heat pipes will help with heat dissipation and increase the reliability of the power delivery system. That's not the only indication though, make sure you read reviews about the motherboards you are considering.

If by the above you mean which motherboards support that or this CPU, then it's all about the socket, the square where you put the actual chipset. That information you get from the CPU and motherboard description.

For example, an Intel i5 CPU generation 4 (Haswell) needs a motherboard with an LGA 1150.

As far as the VRM design (Voltage Regulator Module) goes, raimeken is partly right. A very small part of the voltage delivery system has been integrated into the actual chipset, all the other parts (the capacitors, the MOSFETs, etc) are still on the motherboard and their quality depends on the manufacturer. You can find this information in one of the Tek Syndicate videos featuring the ASUS representative when they launched their new line of motherboards with the Z87 chipset.

As far as GPUs go,raimeken is completely right, any modern graphics card will fit into any motherboard that has a PCI-Express slot for graphics cards. The latest revision of the slot is PCI-Express 3.0, that's what you should aim for, although I think I read somewhere that there's no noticeable difference between revision 2.0 and 3.0 (the FX CPU line from AMD still uses revision 2.0, for example). I might be wrong about that, take it with a grain of salt.

Alright, well you all certainly helped. Can I ask how I should known how strong a PSU I'll need, or should I make a new post in the PSU section of the forum?

You can always use this: http://www.thermaltake.outervision.com/

It will supply the maximum power you will need with your components working at almost full load, which is not very common unless you're doing specialized stuff (I think video encoding taxes your components like that, but I don't do it so I cannot comment), and it also takes into account your PSU aging. As time goes by, the electronic components don't function as well and your PSU won't be able to output the same wattage. This can have an impact if the PSU has cheap components, but it's less of an issue for quality PSUs (you can set that to 10% if you have a good PSU).

The next question you need to ask yourself is what you want to do with your computer. I am guessing you want to game, so choosing a PSU close to the number from the site is ok, because during gaming your components won't be stressed to their limits. EDIT: you will probably have a PSU for many years, so when buying one you should also keep in mind future upgrades, like buying a second video card (these are very power hungry), another SSD, hdd, fan, etc. I believe choosing something more powerful than what the site tells you is a very good idea, but that's your decision to make. On the flip side, the trend is to reduce power consumption for hardware, so that is another thing that you should be aware of.

If you want to do something with your computer that actually stresses the components to their limits most of the time, then you will probably need a more powerful PSU than what the site will tell you, because PSU's are most efficient when at 50% load, and their efficiency starts to decline from that point on. For example, an 1000W gold rated PSU (80+ Gold), at 50% load, will produce 500W and draw 543W from the wall socket (the rest, 43W, will be transformed into heat). That is called efficiency and it is equal to 500/543*100 = 92%. At 100% load it will have an efficiency of 88%, meaning that for the 1000W it produces it will draw 1136W from the wall socket, and 136W will be dissipated as heat. That means a higher electric bill, and because the fan would have to deal with more heat (3 times more than at 50% load) it will spin faster and be louder.

EDIT: if you don't want to bother with all that, you can simply post in the PSU forum, I am sure that the people here will be glad to help you out with a proper power supply for the amount of cash you are willing to spend.

Thanks for posting, Ksajal. I appreciate your answer and the link you've provided.

You're welcome!