What is the difference between a cheap and expensive motherboard?

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The price of motherboards has always varied, with some being cheap at less than $120 USD and others being expensive at over $1000 USD in some cases, especially for multi-socket motherboards for MP systems. However, currently, even motherboards for conventional computers have seen a significant increase in prices. So why are we witnessing PC motherboards with price tags exceeding $1000 USD?

High-end motherboards in difficult times

The reason $1000 USD motherboards are a reality is that they are highly advanced PCBs that are increasingly complex and have more layers to accommodate all the necessary high-performance connections. Additionally, they are considered luxury products, i.e., high-end.

These high-end motherboards typically mount advanced chipsets such as the Intel Z790 and the AMD X670E. They are intended for enthusiast or gamer configurations, and this comes with a price.

Furthermore, the current landscape, scarcity of certain components like PWM chips integrated into motherboards, and some restrictions are also contributing to the increased prices.

Given the significant price gap between $100 and $1000 motherboards, many users may wonder what the difference is between the two. Is there really a significant difference between the two? Well, the truth is that when you buy a cheap motherboard, the performance and features will not be the same as when you buy an expensive one.

When examining the technical specifications of a motherboard, one can observe that high-end motherboards provide better performance and more features than their cheaper counterparts. Although it is not recommended to spend a large sum of money on a motherboard, since motherboards priced between $250 and $500 are more than sufficient for most users, including gamers, it may still be worth it in some cases.

In the previous paragraph, I meant to say that a $1000 motherboard is only worth it in extreme cases. While significant improvements can be achieved with a CPU, GPU, and even RAM, a motherboard does not affect performance as much. Moreover, there are no significant differences in reliability between a cheap and an expensive model from the same brand.

The difference lies in these elements:


The difference in motherboard prices can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the chipset. Despite being simplified and reduced from two chips to just one, as some of its parts have been integrated into the CPU to improve performance, it remains one of the most expensive components. The motherboard’s specifications and compatibility will depend on the chipset, such as which CPU it can support, the type of RAM and speeds it can handle, the number of lanes or interconnections it will have, etc.

A few years ago, motherboards had a chipset consisting of two chips, the northbridge and the southbridge. Currently, the northbridge has been incorporated into the CPU to connect the RAM and other high-speed lanes directly to it, resulting in improved performance.

If the CPU is considered as the brain of a computer, then the chipset can be likened to the spinal cord. It connects the brain to the rest of the system’s parts. As you may know, the chipset architecture has shifted from a northbridge and southbridge to a single controller chip called the PCH or Platform Controller Hub. Several platform factors depend on this, such as the number of PCIe slots that the motherboard has, slots for SSDs, ports for peripherals, and more.

According to some experts, FPGAs are the future of chipsets. Intel acquired Altera, and AMD did the same with Xilinx, to merge the companies’ expertise in FPGAs with their own technologies. Instead of a fixed and unchangeable PCH, imagine a programmable FPGA where functions can be added or removed as necessary, resulting in greater flexibility.


Expensive motherboards, such as those priced at $1000, typically use higher quality components, resulting in greater stability. Budget motherboards, on the other hand, often fail due to cheap capacitors. Expensive motherboards generally use high-quality Japanese capacitors.

Better power regulation components and sturdier construction with more layers in the actual PCB are some of the advantages that expensive motherboards offer. These features result in greater stability, especially while working at high performance and when components get heated. Unlike cheaper motherboards that might cause instability, expensive ones are designed to provide better performance and stability.


The number of interfaces a motherboard provides for connecting different components depends on its chipset. Some examples of interfaces are RAM slots for DIMM or SO-DIMM modules, memory channels, ports (USB, eSATA, Thunderbolt, etc.), PCIe slots, SATA connections, and M.2 slots. Cheaper motherboards, with a basic chipset, offer fewer interfaces while more expensive motherboards, with advanced chipsets, offer more interfaces. This is what determines the expandability of a motherboard.


Overclocking refers to setting the operating frequency of a CPU, GPU, or RAM higher than the factory default. Although modern CPUs/GPUs/RAMs can reach their limit with turbo modes or OC profiles like Intel XMP and AMD EXPO, some advanced users may want to push their builds to the limit for better performance.

However, overclocking can be risky since the chipset plays a role in determining whether it can be done or not. Some chipsets are locked, which means they may not allow overclocking, or it may make the system more unstable or cause the firmware to be unprepared. Therefore, for most people, it is better to avoid overclocking.

Special features

Expensive motherboards offer additional features that are not available in cheaper ones. These features include military-grade certifications, dual BIOS/UEFI, better cooling for components, RGB lighting, more extreme designs, and additional software. Although these features do not necessarily make your system faster, they can enhance its functionality and aesthetics.

Cheap vs expensive motherboards: What should I buy?

In general, the more expensive the motherboard, the better the overall experience will be. However, it is not necessary to spend a fortune on a motherboard, as the gains may not be worth the price. Choosing the cheapest motherboard can also lead to regret. Therefore, it is recommended to opt for mid-priced motherboards in the range of 400 to 500 dollars for the best value.

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