How much is a motherboard, and how much should you be spending on one for your PC build?
Let’s break down the answers to those questions and more motherboard cost-related topics in this article.
How Much Do Motherboards Cost To Manufacture?
While it’s difficult to find the exact cost of materials and manufacturing for a modern motherboard, taking a closer look at the materials in question can give us a better idea of how much it all stacks up.
In terms of raw materials, the two biggest components that go into a motherboard are fiberglass and copper.
Fiberglass is relatively inexpensive, but copper can be somewhat costly despite how common it is, even experiencing price surges and all-time highs in 2021.
Other materials contribute to a motherboard’s cost, too, but this is the baseline from which we can start building a better understanding of motherboard pricing.
For the most part, motherboards aren’t particularly expensive pieces of hardware, especially not when compared to CPUs or GPUs.
However, motherboards can still end up costing a pretty penny, especially high-end motherboards, so let’s start talking about how much these motherboards cost you, the end user.
How Much Is a Motherboard?
Well, the answer to this depends on the pricing tier of the motherboard in question.
Some motherboards are as cheap as $50-60, but high-end motherboards can easily reach and exceed $200, with particularly niche enthusiast boards going as high as $800 – $1000!
Most users shouldn’t be spending much more than $200 on their motherboard unless the extra features being touted by those multi-hundred dollar boards are actually needed for your workload.
To break down why this is my recommendation, I’ll also need to take a moment to talk about motherboard pricing tiers.
Understanding Motherboard Pricing Tiers
So, motherboards actually tend to fall into a few different pricing tiers. These tiers will usually correspond to the motherboard chipset being included on the board, even if the chipset itself isn’t necessarily high-cost.
The motherboard chipset is directly tied to what CPUs will be compatible with your board, whether or not you’ll be able to overclock them, how many PCIe-Lanes are available for expansion cards and drives, support for DDR5 RAM, and other motherboard features, like RAM tweaking and overclocking, Thunderbolt support, or 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
Because of how integral the chipset is to the board’s features in question, higher-end chipsets tend to be relegated to more expensive motherboards.
There wouldn’t be much point in slapping an overclocking-capable chipset onto a cheap motherboard because chances are the rest of the board (especially the motherboard VRMs) wouldn’t actually be suitable for CPU overclocking.
So, how much is a motherboard with the features you’re looking for? I’ll give you some expected price ranges and features to look out for now:
Side Note: Intel and AMD have two fairly different approaches to CPU overclocking that should be made clear before you proceed.
Intel boards relegate overclocking to their highest-end chipsets and specifically unlocked CPUs. AMD not only allows every CPU to be overclocked but tends to unlock the feature for mid-range and even some entry-level priced boards well before Intel does.
Entry-Level Motherboards: Under $70
- Aimed at people who just want to build a basic PC
- No overclocking features or very little headroom, if available
- Conservative RAM overclocking features, if they are present
- Few extra features
- Limited NVMe/high-speed PCIe lanes
Mid-Range Motherboards: Under $200
- Aimed at professionals, gamers, and other general consumers
- Overclocking sometimes available, should have decent headroom in this price range
- RAM overclocking features are present, should be able to at least meet your XMP/EXPO memory overclocking profiles for mid-range kits
- Some extra features, like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, may be added to certain boards
- More NVMe/PCIe x16 slots
High-End Motherboards: Under $350
- Aimed at professionals, gamers, and enthusiasts
- CPU overclocking available, usually with good-to-great headroom (depending on board/VRMs)
- RAM overclocking available, usually with good-to-great headroom (depends on the board, but high-end chipsets will support higher RAM speeds)
- Good-to-great NVMe/PCIe x16 slot support with extended bifurcation support
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Thunderbolt, 10Gbe and other extras should be present and perform well but maybe board-dependent
Enthusiast Motherboards: $350 and Higher
- Aimed at heavy-duty professionals, gaming enthusiasts, or performance junkies
- The best overclocking capabilities for CPU and RAM, though not always worth the increase in price (especially once you get really high up there)
- The best NVMe/PCIe x16 support
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other extras should be present and perform well but are board-dependent
- Often come with goodies that won’t influence performance at all, such as specific aesthetics or RGB
- Might have better cooling with elaborate heat-pipes, or water-cooling support
A note on Motherboards and CPU Generations
While the above price tiers are somewhat valid for most Motherboards, there are CPU and Motherboard Generations that can be considerably more or less expensive throughout all SKUs.
This might have to do with expensive power delivery for a specific generation of CPUs, chipset cooling, incorporation of new technology like a RAM-gen bump or PCIe-gen bump, or a socket change from LGA to PGA, to name a few. In any case, high-end technology such as motherboards always depends on supply and demand, not just consumer demand but on raw material supply and availability as well, which can influence prices globally.
A good example are AMD X670E, X670, B650E, and B650 Motherboards, which are considerably more expensive than the previous generation. Finding a previous-gen B550 board below $100 is easy, but a current-gen B650 board below even $200 is almost impossible.
So, Motherboard Pricing before new releases in 2022 is wholly different from what we’re seeing right now.
How Motherboard Size Impacts Pricing
Motherboard size also impacts pricing, but not always in the way you would necessarily think.
For example, you may expect smaller motherboards to be less expensive due to using fewer raw materials, but that isn’t actually how it works.
Mini ITX motherboards— the smallest standard motherboard size— tend to be more expensive than their ATX and Micro ATX counterparts whenever they offer the same features.
This applies especially to high-end Mini ITX boards. Despite using fewer raw materials, there is still a tangible cost in R&D of small board layouts and manufacturing of a high-end Mini ITX board that you’ll see reflected in a higher price than its ATX contemporaries.
Micro ATX is smaller than ATX, but not so small that they’re priced higher. In fact, many Micro ATX boards seem to cost about the same or even less than their full-sized ATX counterparts.
This…actually kind of makes sense, if only because Micro ATX boards aren’t nearly as tightly packed as a Mini ITX board is and they mostly just like cut-down versions of an ATX board. Because that’s basically what they are.
Finally, you can pretty much count on an Extended ATX board to be the most expensive option. This will usually be less about raw materials or R&D and more about the features that get stuffed into your typical Extended ATX boards.
EATX boards are generally expected to have 4-8 RAM slots, more full-size PCIe x16 slots, more NVMe slots, etc.
If there was ever a form factor aimed directly at “high-end” rather than just being big or small, it’s probably Extended ATX, though it’s also the biggest standard board size.
Do More Expensive Motherboards Improve Performance?
If you’re concerned about the performance of your PC, there are going to be some important questions to ask yourself before buying a motherboard:
- Are You Overclocking Your CPU?
- Are You Using High-Speed RAM?
- Are You Using or Planning To Use 2 or More NVMe Drives or PCIe x16 Expansion Cards?
For CPU overclocking concerns, you don’t just want to stop at getting an overclocking-supported chipset. You’ll also want to ensure your board has high-quality VRMs that enable a good to overclock, especially if you’re using a high-end CPU.
For RAM overclocking concerns, you’ll need to consult the specs of your motherboard before buying it. Your motherboard manufacturer should list all RAM speeds supported by your board on their site. Make sure that this includes the advertised speed of your RAM kit of choice.
For multi-NVMe or multi-GPU users, you’ll need a motherboard that prioritizes bandwidth. Look for high-end boards with multiple full-speed NVMe or PCIe x16 slots to ensure the best performance for your machine.
Are Used and Refurbished Motherboards Worth Buying?
If they’re from a reputable seller that you trust, yes!
Motherboards aren’t particularly likely to be the point of failure when a PC starts to age out. The GPU, PSU, and storage drives are all generally more likely to fail before a motherboard does.
This makes them generally fine to purchase secondhand, but only from a reseller, you trust who will refund you if the board doesn’t actually work.
How Should Premium Motherboard Features Be Prioritized?
Well, that part is really going to depend on you.
But I think the most important features to keep in mind if you’re going to be spending more money on a motherboard are CPU overclocking and NVMe support.
CPU overclocking lets you maximize the performance of the processor that you already paid for, and having more NVMe slots gives you more options for high-performance storage upgrades for (hopefully) years to come.
Other stuff, I would generally consider secondary unless you know the features are useful for you.
For example, if you want a desktop PC for a college dorm or shared living situation but won’t be able to wire it up, getting a motherboard with great built-in Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth support makes sense!
But if you don’t need those features, there’s no reason to spend extra money on a motherboard that just happens to have them, unless the other features of the board keep it competitive with other boards that don’t have wireless functionality.
Over to You
And that’s it!
How much is a motherboard and how much should you be spending on it?
With any luck, this article helped answer that question for you and explained the reasons why. But if you have any remaining questions, feel free to sound off in the comments below or visit the CGDirector team and community on our dedicated Forums.
Until then or until next time, happy PC building! And don’t forget: Micro ATX is a pretty good standard if you want a smaller PC without spending too much extra for the privilege.