Motherboards: expensive versus cheap

There is an opinion that an expensive motherboard is bad manners, a waste of money and, in general, it is better to “add a better processor”. But then why does a car need large-diameter wheels and high-quality rubber? Let’s better take a 300 hp engine, and leave the wheels from the Oka – and so it will do. Earnestly? Still would. Now let’s figure out why motherboards are expensive and whether they are really better than budget models.

Why overpay for an expensive motherboard when you can take a cheaper one with similar characteristics. This eternal dispute always ends with virtual beatings, banning and blacklisting. The heated participants in the controversy are divided into two camps: some “drown” for a premium, others categorically do not want to believe in the value of paid buns. Representatives of both sides know their business and understand what they are fighting for. Shrapnel and stray bullets more often go to spectators and onlookers who came for answers, but received a flurry of bad advice.

If you answer quickly, then the answer will be this: an expensive motherboard is better than a cheap one. To still understand this topic, it is necessary to formulate the task more correctly. For example, like this: when is the purchase of flagship components justified, and when is it better to limit yourself to budget execution? In this case, the topic is subject to deeper study, and one cannot do without facts.

Element base
The motherboard is a set of radio components. Resistors, transistors, capacitors and other microscopic elements that together create a closed circuit. Stability and reliability of the board depend on the quality of performance of each electronic “baby”. It is necessary to “relax” at least one element – and the rest will suffer.

Few people pay attention to the quality of PCI Express power supply circuits. The control microcircuits heat up both by themselves and passively from a red-hot video card. With the simultaneous connection and operation of two video cards, a pair of M2 drives, as well as a sound card and a wireless network module, PCIe keys can become overworked.

In this regard, motherboards differ greatly from segment to segment. In the budget model, the manufacturer can use the simplest transistors that are capable of pulling only a couple of devices on themselves. In the top board, this stage will be thought out to the smallest detail: microcircuits with a power reserve, as well as backup and additional cooling.MSI B450M PRO-M2 MAX motherboard
In addition to the element base, the quality of internal connections is valued in electronics. Imagine that instead of copper paths, real roads lead from transistor to transistor. If the road is straight and level, the signal will arrive quickly and without loss. If there are many obstacles and turns on the way, the signal may lose its original characteristics.

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Motherboards differ in the way the power and signal paths of the RAM slots are wired. Budget models transport signals to RAM and back along the usual route known only to the manufacturer itself. Manufacturers use topology in boards of the upper price segment. This means that the RAM is not managed randomly, but in a strictly designated way, for example, Daisy Chain or T-Topology.
Daisy Chain allows the processor to work efficiently with two memory sticks and overclock them from 4500 MHz and higher. The second topology is designed for simultaneous operation with four strips. Both types can be found in separate board models. This also applies to the more expensive theory.

By itself, a motherboard is not speedy in terms of computer performance. But it integrates components into a single system and synchronizes their work. Naturally, the motherboard must provide each element with a stable power supply and a clean signal. This is especially true for the processor: for the chip to work properly, the voltage should be without drawdowns and surges. The VRM board is responsible for this .

A VRM is a system of transistors, chips, and chokes that takes voltage from a power supply, transforms it, and feeds it to the processor, integrated graphics, and controllers. The more powerful and high-quality the elements used by the manufacturer in the power subsystem, the better. For example, the performance of the processor depends on the stability of the VRM. If the power subsystem overheats and starts throttling , then the frequency of the processor and its processing power will also begin to decrease.

As a rule, high -power supply circuits are used by default in expensive boards . In budget versions, the subsystem is limited to only 4–5 phases. This is enough for the stable operation of the chip with a heat dissipation of 65 watts. A high-performance processor with a TDP of 95 watts and above requires more phases. This is only available on mid to high end motherboards.
The motherboard has its own processor. Previously, such a set of logic was called south and north bridges, now it is just a chipset . The chipset is responsible for the set of functions of the board, the number of supported devices, PCIe lanes, overclocking the processor or RAM.

Motherboards with the simplest Intel H310 chipset cannot be as good as models based on Intel Z390 and newer. Moreover, motherboards with flagship chipsets are a priori made with improved characteristics, for example, with a powerful power subsystem, on which processor overclocking and stable operation at higher frequencies depend . However, on a platform with budget chipsets, this is not needed: they do not support overclocking the processor and memory. , so they will almost always work in a sparing mode.

A similar situation is observed with AMD . Motherboards with flagship X-series logic come with a staff of additional features. For example, they support PCI Express 4.0. For budget motherboards based on the A-series chipset, this is not available, as well as some functions on systems with B-series chipsets.

The quality and number of connectors depends on the level of performance of the motherboard. This includes all internal ports and connections. For example, in expensive motherboards, at least one PCI Express slot is reinforced with a metal frame.

This is vital to prevent a heavy graphics card from ripping out the socket under the weight of the cooling system. They do not put this in budget boards – the skew of the connector and all the ensuing consequences are guaranteed.

In top-end motherboards, the connectors are not only made of better quality, but also surpass the budget sets in terms of quantity. We’re talking not only about PCIe connectors, but also SATA ports and fan headers . For example, in cheap motherboards the number of connectors for case turntables can be limited to only three outputs, while flagship models can be equipped with six connectors or more.

Not all beginner builders understand the value of detailed BIOS settings. Users believe that setting up a computer is all about installing Windows, programs, and games. And let the geeks play with the rest. But some time after assembly, the curious owner will recognize the coveted word “overclocking” and set off in search of happiness in the board’s settings.

In motherboards from the same manufacturer, the BIOS is arranged in a similar way. This is identical design, sliders and twists. Experienced users bypass these “goodies” and use the settings the old fashioned way, switching to advanced options. Depending on the level of execution of the board, the BIOS can be either very limited or very detailed. Naturally, additional points in voltage setting never interfere and may be needed at any time if the user is interested in overclocking or undervolting.