Difference between gaming and regular motherboards: Do you really need a Gaming Motherboard for your rig?

Hi there people! Today, I am going to talk about one of the most common dilemmas PC builders face while picking their parts- Regular Motherboard or Gaming Motherboard?  In the end most of them end up buying a $300 gaming motherboard and if you ask them why? Well… ”Dude it’s a gaming PC, the motherboard too has to be gaming grade.” *FACEPALM*

So today we’ll be debunking one of the most common gaming PC myths: “Gaming motherboards give an insanely extra push to the FPS and gaming quality, compared to the regular motherboards.”

To prove this, we at Syndicate Tech undertook a project. We compared our old AMD AM3+ motherboard with my newer AMD AM3+ Gaming motherboard (although it is one of the entry level gaming boards. High end boards run upto $1000 or more):

The Old one- Gigabyte GA 78-LMT-S2 motherboard and The New one- MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard. In the table below, we listed out features of both the motherboards:

  Gigabyte GA 78-LMT-S2 motherboard MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard
Cost $55 $150
SATA ports 6 SATA2 ports 6 SATA3 ports
USB ports 6 USB 2.0 ports 4 USB 3.0 and 14 USB 2.0 ports (Front and Rear combined)
DDR3 memory, PCI up to 16 GB DDR3 memory and 1 PCI express version 2.0 slot 4 DIMM slots i.e. up to 32 GB DDR3 memory and 2 PCI express version 2.0 slots
Audio ports Default 3 audio ports with not bad audio quality wonderful Audio Boost 2.0
BIOS generic BIOS Click BIOS 4, which is the latest UEFI BIOS
SLI/Crossfire Not available supports SLI and Crossfire
LAN One default LAN port Killer E2200 Game Networking
Appeal It’s blue in colour, with the main PCB being a darker shade of blue than the slots and everything It comes in a beautiful black and red combination and even with beautifully painted heat sinks.

 

6487_bigGigabyte GA 78-LMT-S2                                                    MSI 970G - Top MSI 970 Gaming

 

Now comes the interesting part.

For the experiment, we hooked up exactly the same parts:

  • Processor- AMD FX 8350 4.1 GHz 8 core processor.
  • RAM- 2x 4 GB 1600 MHz Corsair Vengeance RAM.
  • Graphics Card- MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 2 GB GDDR5.
  • HDD- 1X Seagate Desktop HDD 1 TB 7200 RPM; 1X Seagate Pipeline HD 320 GB 5200 RPM and 1X Hitachi HDD 500 GB 7200 RPM.
  • Power Supply- Cooler Master Thunder 500 W.

And for testing, we chose games that tend to demand more power. All the settings were at very high, 1080p.
Project Cars
Crysis 3
Battlefield 4
Metro Last Light

So this is what the comparative analysis told us:

graph

And you’ll be surprised with the results we achieved:
Interestingly, performance wise, there was a very, minimal difference. In all the cases, as you see, the gaming motherboard gives about 3-5% of more FPS than the regular motherboard. But other than that? Performance wise? Nothing. Although the performance is slightly better, but the difference in real life is hardly noticeable. Other than gaming, there is hardly any difference in other activities like browsing, movies, editing etc.

When would you need a Gaming Motherboard then?

Well, you might have guessed. If there is no difference at all, why are these boards made? Who buys them? Should I buy a regular one or a gaming board? If you notice the difference in the specifications of the two boards, the gaming motherboard has a whole lot of extra features that the regular motherboard doesn’t- It has 4 RAM slots, 2 PCIe slots and SATA 3 ports. If you are going to build an all-round machine with tons of horsepower, which would include multiple graphics card, maximum RAM, SSDs etc. you are going to need a board that can support it. Like the gaming board above, it can support a 2 way SLI i.e. 2 graphics cards at once, 32 GB of RAM, SATA 3 SSDs, whereas our regular board although giving a tough competition to the gaming board in terms of performance does not have these features.

Also, for gaming purposes the gaming board has good on-board audio, overclocking software, an optimized UEFI BIOS and a fast, hassle-free LAN for online gaming.
Another use for a gaming motherboard would be overclocking. Overclocking your graphics card/RAM/processor on a regular board would be a terrible idea. It just can’t handle it. That’s where your gaming motherboard comes to play- it can handle overclocking amazingly well.
And lastly, gamers tend to choose these boards based on its visuals. Many builders, maintain a particular look, say black and red GPU with black and red motherboard. Also, this becomes another reason to choose gaming motherboards- aesthetics.

Let me put it more simply.  Do you:

  1. Plan for extreme gaming at extreme settings and visuals?
  2. Plan to overclock any of your components?
  3. Care if the colour of your components doesn’t match and, also care about maintaining a particular colour scheme?
  4. Plan to keep upgrading your system as new parts are launched?
  5. Need extra memory (more than 16 GB) for programming, video editing, multitasking?

If your answer to all or most of the questions above is No, then you don’t need a gaming motherboard.

However, I am not discouraging you from buying a Gaming Motherboards- they are awesome hardware, I myself use one- but, I am just trying to distinguish between normal and gaming grade motherboards, how they differ in terms of features and performance and do you REALLY need the better out of the two. If you choose wisely, maybe you can use that extra 100 bucks for a better graphics card or better processor or whatever. Also, few of the latest “regular” motherboards now come with gaming board features like 4 DIMM slots, SATA 3 ports, USB 3.0 ports etc. which gives us an even better reason to choose them. Also, as I mentioned earlier in this post and my earlier posts on Syndicate Tech, keep your future upgrades in mind while choosing a motherboard, because they house all the components of your PC, and if your motherboard is outdated then there would be no question of upgrading anything else. I think the conclusion of all this *rambling* would be- Look for a board that suits your current needs, has room for future upgrades and avoid paying for unnecessary features. Also, just to explain the performance difference between a cheap and a relatively costly board, I depicted the 970 in a wrong sense. Its a great board, and given its features, its a bang for the buck, especially for those who want more.

I hope this helps, and I was able to answer the common questions regarding this topic. Please like, share and do visit us back for more. If you have any questions, queries, suggestion etc. you can comment below. We always love positive discussions and debates. Also, stay tuned for more posts on PC Building! Till then, ciao! 🙂

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