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What is a Laptop Motherboard?

K. Schurman
K. Schurman

A laptop motherboard is the primary printed circuit board (PCB) inside the laptop that contains the components that make the computer work. Most desktop computer cases are of a similar size and use similar configurations, allowing them to use the same types of motherboards. Laptops, however, exist in many sizes and configurations, which means several different models of motherboards are required.

A motherboard, sometimes called a system board, is included in all types of computers. Motherboards almost always contain sockets for chips, memory slots, firmware chips, and a power connector. Various electrical connectors are etched on the motherboard to connect various components of the system. Several key components live on the motherboard, including the central processor unit (CPU), the chipset, the main random-access memory (RAM) area, and numerous other chips and connectors.

A computer motherboard.
A computer motherboard.

Laptops, also called notebooks and netbooks, are designed to be mobile. A battery or a power adapter provides the electrical power for a laptop. Typically, a laptop computer is not quite as powerful or as easy to reconfigure with upgraded components as a desktop computer.

Significantly thinner and smaller than a desktop, the motherboard in a laptop must also be smaller. With a smaller motherboard, the components must be closer together, meaning the design of the laptop motherboard is extremely important. A poorly designed motherboard could cause problems with heat buildup or interference between components. Laptop motherboards also might have an odd shape or several notches, allowing then to fit inside the thin laptop case, along with other necessary components. Desktop motherboards are primarily rectangular in shape with few notches.

A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.

When compared to a desktop motherboard, a laptop motherboard has some significant differences. For example, the laptop motherboard might not have any expansion slots, while a desktop board might have five or more. Rather than using expansion slots and expansion cards for items like sound cards or networking, a laptop motherboard would include those components directly on the motherboard, and they're called integrated components.

A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.
A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.

For those who build their own computers, finding a motherboard to fit a desktop computer is a fairly easy process. Many companies will sell a desktop motherboard to do-it-yourself computer builders, but finding a laptop motherboard in the DIY market is difficult. This lack of standardization in laptop motherboards can make building a laptop computer from scratch a very process.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- Gaming laptops are great, but they do have some disadvantages.

First of all, they are incredibly expensive. You will be amazed at how much more you will have to pay for one. You could save some cash by simply buying a good desktop computer and adding a great graphics card.

Second, that motherboard will still limit what you can do. Since you don't have expansion slots, you can't exactly slap in a new graphics card when technology advances. No, you will be stuck with the gaming graphics that came with your laptop. In other words, your laptop will only be able to handle those cutting edge games for a limited time.


@Vinzenzo -- Of course, you could just get a gaming laptop. Those are set up for the latest and greatest games and can go toe to toe with any desktop setup out there. Just ask your friendly rep at your favorite computer store to show you some and you can bet there will be a few in stock that will suit your needs just fine.

Laptop computers can pretty well do everything desktops can these days. It did take some time for high performance gaming to come to laptops, but that has happened. Enjoy it.


The problem with a lack of expansion slots is exactly why it is so touch to transform a powerful laptop into a gaming computer. On a desktop system, you simply slap in a good gaming card in an expansion slot and you are all set.

Things are not that easy with a laptop because of the limitations of the laptop motherboard. You are probably stuck with integrated graphics and those are never set up for cutting edge gaming graphics.

If you want to play games, get a desktop.

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    • A computer motherboard.
      By: VIA Gallery
      A computer motherboard.
    • A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
      A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
    • A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.
      By: nikkytok
      A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.