Are you building a photo editing PC for yourself but are unsure about what kind of motherboard to buy? That is fine, you are just one of many people who find buying motherboards a tedious task.
The good news here is that a motherboard for photo editing does not have to cost a lot. In fact, you can go ahead with the entry-level models and they will have sufficient capacity to support all sorts of editing jobs.
The confusion generally arises from the fact that there are so many specifications to take note of such as form factor, chipset, socket, expansion slots, SATA ports, connectors, M.2 slots, etc. However, again, for photo editing jobs, you can keep things very simple.
It is worth noting that most professional content creators, photographers, and photo editors do spend on premium motherboards for certain features like the Thunderbolt port or coupling them with a powerful CPU – powerful CPUs require a quality motherboard.
Again, spending a hefty sum on a motherboard for building a photo editing PC is not necessarily important as we will see below. You can get away with a basic entry-level A series model from AMD or H series from Intel so long as you have a decent processor to match.
In this article, we will review some of the best motherboards for photo editing for different builds.
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What Specs Do I Need for a Photo Editing Computer?
Photo editing is generally considered a processor and a RAM-hungry task. The lion’s share of the workload for photo editing is conducted by the processor and hence it only makes sense that you maximize your budget for the processor.
The image above shows the typical system requirements for Adobe Photoshop – a very popular photo editing tool.
In fact, the system requirement rarely even talks about the processor you need. This is because the system requirements for photo editing tasks vary ALOT depending on your level of expertise and the complexity of the project you are working on.
Unfortunately, the system requirements rarely make any mention of the type of motherboard to choose. Below we have a short guide on how to choose the right Photo Editing motherboard.
CPU is the Most Important Component
Before you buy a motherboard for photo editing, the CPU is a far more important component to consider.
While Photo Editing is not AS demanding as animation, video editing, simulation, etc, it does demand a decent processor at a professional level.
The larger the photos and graphics you work on, the better processor you need.
While I wouldn’t recommend going with the top-of-the-line and workstation-grade Ryzen 9 threadripper or Intel i9 CPUs from the get-go, a decent Core i5/Ryzen 5 should do the trick.
The least you should settle for is an Intel Core i3/Ryzen 3 from the latest generations.
Once you select the generation of the CPU, you can then look into buying your motherboard.
You will need to pay attention to two important specs to determine compatibility
- The socket of the CPU (LGA1700 for 12th and 13th Gen Intel, AM5 for Ryzen 7000 series)
- The chipset you want – both AMD and Intel have motherboards chipset catering to different price categories such as AMD A series for budget and AMD X series for high-end motherboards. I recommend sticking with the mid-range B series from both Intel and AMD.
Choosing the Right Option for The Best Motherboards for Photo Editing
Again, the choice of the motherboard depends upon the choice of your CPU.
For a new build, I would recommend sticking with the 12th or 13th Gen Intel CPUs. You can go for affordable motherboards if you are wanting to maximize your budget for the other core components like the CPU and the RAM. Or if your budget allows and if robust connectivity is what you are looking for, then I recommend looking into motherboards that can offer Thunderbolt 4 (USB4) or at least a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 port. Intel 12th and 13th | DDR4 The faster USB ports and the Thunderbolt port can allow you to add faster external hard drives which should allow you to save, archive and retrieve your files faster.
The Intel Route
LGA1700 | 2 x M.2 (Gen 4) | PCIe 5.0 | USB 4 , USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
For a new build, I would recommend sticking with the 12th or 13th Gen Intel CPUs. You can go for affordable motherboards if you are wanting to maximize your budget for the other core components like the CPU and the RAM.
Or if your budget allows and if robust connectivity is what you are looking for, then I recommend looking into motherboards that can offer Thunderbolt 4 (USB4) or at least a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 port.
Intel 12th and 13th | DDR4
The faster USB ports and the Thunderbolt port can allow you to add faster external hard drives which should allow you to save, archive and retrieve your files faster.
The AMD Route
For AMD, the natural choice is to go for AM5 based CPU such as the newer performance-based Ryzen 7000 series CPUs. For the compatible motherboard, I'd recommend sticking with the mid-range B650 chipset.
Ryzen 7000 | DDR5
AM5 | 2 x M.2 (Gen 4) | PCIe 4.0 | USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Ryzen 7000 | DDR5
The issue with 7000 series Ryzen build is that you will HAVE to get a mid-range CPU from the Ryzen 5 at LEAST since there are no AM5-based Ryzen 3 or Athlon CPUs.
So for an absolute budget build, I would suggest sticking with the older AM4-based motherboards and CPUs from the Ryzen 3 5000 series.
DDR 4 vs DDR5
Unlike AMD where all AM5-based motherboards support DDR5 RAM, with Intel that is not the case. You can find the same Intel chipset offering either DDR4 or DDR5 depending on the model you get.
As far as photo editing is concerned, DDR5 has little impact on the performance at the moment, this was proved by a comprehensive study done by PugetSystems.com
However, if you absolutely wish to have DDR5 support for your Intel build then GIGABYTE B760 AORUS Elite AX is a great alternative albeit it is more expensive than the DDR4 options we saw above.
What to Look For in the Best Motherboard for Photo Editing?
As mentioned earlier entry levels of motherboards are more than enough for photo editing. However, depending upon the complexity and the overall system you build, the choice of the motherboard can vary.
You Can Go For Simple and Affordable Motherboards
There is no need to invest in a premium heavy-duty motherboard particularly if your overall build is mid-range. You can stick with much simpler models.
If you plan to build a system with entry-level processors like the Intel Core i3 / Ryzen 3 or even Core i5. Ryzen 5, then ultra budget motherboards like the MSI PRO B550M-VC can be good enough particularly if you are trying to save up.
You don't need a lot of PCIe expansion slots. Just a single PCIe X16 slot for a graphics card is more than enough. More PCIe X16 slots only make sense when you have to install two more graphics cards and that is hardly necessary for photo editing.
Other than that, since many photo editors rarely overclock, you don't need to invest in boards that feature premium features like high-quality VRMs, large heatsinks, and a high-phase power design.
Secondly, motherboards with aesthetic features such as beautiful heatsinks, and LED lighting tend to cost the most. You don't need that either.
Finally, a motherboard with 2 RAM slots with maximum support for up to 64 GB of RAM should also be quite sufficient - although I am sure you won't be needing 64 GB of RAM anytime soon.
The point is, a bare minimum motherboard should be more than enough for photo editing tasks particularly if you are a beginner or an intermediate user trying to save up.
Also Read: Best Motherboards with Integrated Graphics
Should You Invest in Premium and Expensive Motherboards for Editing Photos?
Again, there most certainly are motherboards particularly built with creators in mind. Motherboards from the ASUS ProArt series are an example.
However, these are expensive and offer premium specs like Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, overclocking ability, USB 4, Thunderbolt 4, multiple Gen4/Gen5 SSD slots, SLI and Crossfire support, better heatsinks, and most importantly better VRMs.
These motherboards definitely make sense if you plan to go for high-performance and workstation-grade CPUs like the Intel Core i9 or the AMD Ryzen.
Premium motherboards have a better voltage control design and thus they can cater to the more powerful processor better.
But for the majority of the cases, you will never need such a large spectrum of specs for mere photo editing unless you are working in a top-notch industry.
Micro ATX is Preferable for a Budget Photo Editing Build
Motherboards have form factor. Some are large some are smaller. For the purpose of photo editing on a budget, you can stick with the smaller range of motherboards.
We recommend you stick with either Micro ATX or mini ITX motherboards - Mini ITX being the smaller of the two. A small motherboard means you would not only have a compact build, but the chassis you procure for it would also cost much less.
A micro ATX board is larger than a MINI ITX but smaller than an ATX. It is the cheapest form factor out there and offers decent expandability. Of course, not all Micro ATX motherboards are created equally. Some are cheaper others are expensive.
However, overall, micro ATX tends to be inexpensive compared to the rest in the same performance category.
MINI ITX for Mini Photo Editing PC Build
Mini ITX motherboards are generally more expensive than an average budget micro ATX motherboard, however, they have a much smaller form factor.
They have a dimension of 6.7 x 6.7 inches making the smallest of the standard PC motherboards.
These are great for compact PC systems and are great if you do not have a very high expansion requirement. Most of these motherboards do come with built-in WiFi.
Focus Your Budget on Other Components First
For photo editing, a premium monitor, a fast processor, a good amount of RAM is far more important than the motherboard.
Therefore, if you have a limited budget then it is better to focus your finances on other critical components and not just on the motherboard.
Again, you would only need a high-end motherboard if you ever plan to game, video edit or photo edit on an expert level.
Also, you should note that should you choose to go for newer standards and protocols like having a motherboard that conforms to the PCIe v5.0 protocol, has the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 or USB 4.0 ports, WiFi 6, etc., then the price tag will naturally get higher.
Here we looked at some of the best motherboards for photo editing. As you may have noticed most of the motherboards here are entry-level ones - mid-range.
We have chosen as such because, for photo editing, a motherboard is less important than the CPU and the RAM. However, there should always be a parity between all components. Meaning you should not buy an expensive CPU and stick it on an ultra-budget motherboard even if it has the socket to support it.
However, for most professional photo editors, a simple motherboard that can support a sufficient amount of RAM and the latest processors would be more than enough.