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PCB Vs. Motherboard: Are They Different?

For a less tech-savvy person, PCB vs. motherboard might be the same thing. It gets more complicated when you consider that both of them have evolved into multilayered boards hosting components communicating to a larger system. 

In a nutshell, motherboards are highly specialized boards in computers. There’s only one in a device. 

Unlike a motherboard, you can find multiple PCBs in a unit. Each PCB has an assigned electrical task. 

Let’s break down some fundamentals of PCB vs motherboards to clear the air.

What is PCB?

A printed circuit board(PCB) is a board consisting of an electronically inert base material and hosting electrical pathways connecting to electrical components.

PCBs are the foundation of many electrical devices in various applications ranging from household consumer electronics to industrial machines. 

A PCB hosts vital electrical components such as resistors, capacitors, diodes, and integrated circuits. Coated copper, gold, or tin pathways connect these components electronically.

What is Motherboard?

A motherboard is a printed circuit board(PCB) specifically made to be a controlling unit in a computer or other electrical systems. 

The motherboard is a computer’s baseboard that holds connections for I/O devices and vital parts of the computer, such as the CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage. 

It is also the backbone of communication connections between data buses, power distributors, and electrical circuits. 

PCB vs. Motherboard Comparison

To understand the main difference between motherboards and PCBs, remember, all motherboards are PCBs. Yet not all PCBs are motherboards.

Motherboard PCB Functionality

A PCB in an electrical device can control a particular area of the device. It is common to find multiple PCBs for one device, yet in control of different electrical processes and outputs. 

Unlike a PCB, the motherboard is one singular unit from which all communications flow in an electrical device. A device can only have one motherboard, without which it would not work.

Motherboard PCB Components

PCB showing vital components

PCB showing vital components

Looking at a PCB, you’ll find these soldered components. 

  • Resistors
  • Capacitors
  • ICs(Integrated circuits)
  • Diodes
  • Inductors
  • Transformers
  • Sensors

These components usually have active connections through traces, through holes, and vias. You’ll also find elements such as copper, plated gold, tin, and other metals laid in routes to conduct electrical current. 

A PCB also has coatings that protect the layers and conductive material.

On the other hand, a motherboard is an electronic device’s communication hub. Every connection on the device runs from the motherboard. These components are found in a computer.

  • Input/output connectors
  • Central processing unit(CPU)
  • Storage units(HDD/SSD)
  • Memory slots
  • CMOS
  • BIOS
  • Fans
  • PCI slots

A glaring difference in the PCB vs Motherboard components comparison is that PCBs don’t have a direct connection to the power unit unit. However, a motherboard hosts a direct connector to the power supply.

PCB Motherboard Design

By design, PCBs often have a bunch of different designs. They are custom-made to fit sections of a unit. Therefore, it is common for PCBs to be highly customizable. A simple PCB for a prototype project might have one layer. PCBs meant for complex applications may have multiple layers that have electrical connections through vias.

The Motherboard, unlike the PCB, has a specific design suited for each device. You can fit a replacement component onto a motherboard, as long as it matches the specifics of the device. 

The design aspect also influences size. 

Since you can have multiple PCBs in one unit, they are typically smaller. However, a manufacturer can still request bigger PCBs for their project. 

Conversely, motherboards are bigger and standardized. The standardization makes it compatible with similar machines. 

PCB Motherboard Price

PCB production costs substantially less if you’re working with affordable materials. 

Manufacturers use materials such as FR4 for simple PCBs. However, some materials, such as Teflon could hike production costs. 

Also, manufacturers often produce small units. This factor keeps costs down. 

Motherboards fit specific designs and specific products. Also, they are highly specialized. Therefore, the price difference between PCBs and motherboards is wide.

Control Board Vs. Circuit Board

There’s usually some confusion about control boards and whether they are related or similar to circuit boards. 

In a way, they’re part of the same system. You’ll find the control board on the integrated circuit. It is essentially a task manager on a functional PCB. 

A circuit board, however, is the entire baseboard that controls the electronic components on the board. 

PCB vs Motherboard FAQ

Is the PCB the same as the motherboard?

PCBs and motherboards are not the same. They don’t even operate the same. A motherboard is a unique board that enables communications between vital components of a computer. It fits specific form factors and specific machines. 

A PCB is the starting point of an electrical unit, hosting electrical components. Its main job is to provide electrical connections between electrical components. 

What is the difference between PCB and board?

In some cases, a board could mean a breadboard. In this context, a breadboard is mainly a prototyping tool. Here’s the confusing bit. You can use a PCB for prototyping too. However, a board(breadboard) is only a temporary solution meant for experimental design before designing a semi-functional circuit board(PCB).

A board could also be a motherboard. It differs from a PCB in customization limitations, components, and power connection. 

Are PCBs also known as the motherboards?

If you referred to a motherboard as a PCB, you wouldn’t be wrong. Technically, it is. PCBs, though, are not known as motherboards. Think of a motherboard as the main PCB in a computer. 


Computing and electronics are closely related. Motherboards are a key feature in computing, while PCBs are inseparable from electronics. Although the similarities are visible between both, they are different concepts.